Illustrated by Jess Mikhail
32 pages, Orchard
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
When I review a book, it'll normally get one thorough read-through before I set pen to paper (well, more like “fingers to keyboard” but that doesn't quite have the same ring to it). If it's a book that I really enjoy, there's a chance I'll have read it two or three times.
I've lost count of how many times I've read “I Love You, Little Monster” to my daughter.
It's the mark of a good children's book that a child insists on having it read to them every night before going to sleep. It's the mark of a truly fantastic children's book when it is the parent who insists on reading it.
“I Love You, Little Monster” was first published back in 2006 with the title “Keep Love in Your Heart, Little One”. This review is of the recent hardback edition featuring all-new illustrations by Jess Mikhail. The book is a truly adorable tale of a parent's love for their child. The little monster of the title is tucked up in bed and receives a visit from their parent of indeterminate sex. Thinking that Small is asleep, Big proceeds to tell the child how proud he/she/it is of him/her/it and shares his/her/its frustrations at not being able to spend the time with him/her/it. Andreae's simple yet beautifully measured verse is perfectly suited to the gentle narrative. Every page contains a positive message and never fails to put a big, goofy smile on my face. Take this verse (which has echoes of Oscar Wilde's famous “we are all in the gutter” quotation) for a good example:
“So when you get knocked down, my sweetheart
Look up at the sky without fear
For sometimes we need to be flat on our backs
Before starlight begins to appear.”
There's no denying that the story is saccharine sweet, but one would have to be some kind of cold-hearted monster to be able to read all the way through whilst remaining untouched by the sentiment. More importantly, the story is utterly charming and grips my two year-old daughter from beginning to end each and every time without fail.
The book is lovingly illustrated by Jess Mikhail whose use of bright, bold colours and rich textures makes each page a real delight. Whether floating on clouds, paddling in a stream or travelling through space, Mikhail's monstrous duo are jaw-droppingly cute. Covered in fuzz, with plump bodies, floppy ears and long spindly arms, I sometimes find myself wishing I had a big monster to tuck me into bed at night. There's an endearing innocence to the pictures which is playful enough to speak to your inner-child whilst still remaining full of those tiny pleasing details that linger long in the memory after the book is closed.
“I Love You, Little Monster” is a wonderful book and I recommend it with every fibre of my being. Whether you have a young child in the house or you're just fed up of the current glut of Scandinavian murder mysteries, this is a book that you'll cherish for a long time to come.
Read Booksquawk's interview with Jess Mikhail here.
Hereward L.M. Proops