Leonardo and the Terrible Monster

At the SCBWI Conference we were urged to read, read, read, and I started with a book recommended by one of the conference presenters. Leonardo and the Terrible Monster was written by Mo Willems, and published by Hyperion Books for Children in 2005. Having been a writer for Sesame Street, Mo Willems knows monsters. Like Cookie Monster, Leonardo is a monster that doesn’t scare kids, although unlike Cookie Monster, Leonardo really tries. This picture book with only 225 words is a perfect example of how less is more. Illustrations supplement the spare text and, in some cases, as when an entire two-page spread shows only a little boy cowering in the bottom left-hand corner, the illustration says it all. Interestingly, the first 26 pages contain only 122 words, and then one two-page spread is entirely covered with 103 words before the book reverts back to just a few words per page. The book demonstrates brilliant technique building up to the tension, with an ending that has just a hint of surprise. This book is sure to become one of the “new” classics for young children, and it’s also fun for an adult to read aloud.

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