Monstergarten

(2013)
Book cover

Let’s face it - starting school can be nerve racking. Patrick is a tiny, pink furball of a monster with striped horns and a love of cowboy boots. It’s the day before he starts Monstergarten, and a first grader tells Patrick that he must be scary for school. Like all skills, Patrick needs to practice. He has several humorous and failed attempts at scaring his friend Kevin, his cat Snowball (just a heads up, you do NOT want to meet Snowball in a dark alley) and his sister. Throughout the day, Patrick works on his scaring technique. At night, he begins to feel nervous. Will he like his teacher? Will he know where everything is? And, most importantly, will he be scary enough?

The author Daniel J. Mahoney and the illustrator Jef Kaminsky excel at developing the story through both text and illustrations. The images are bright, silly and reinforce Patrick’s anxieties as he prepares for school. Be sure to check out the inside cover for a yearbook photo spread of the the Monstergarten class. Some monsters are goofy. Others are frightening. Some are sobbing giant tears. Others are holding up umbrellas to keep dry from the tears.

Monstergarten is a great read for incoming monstergarteners or kindergartners with back to school jitters. The world of monster’s is different, yet similar enough to ours that young readers will connect with Patrick’s experiences. Whether it’s learning to scare or to say your ABC’s, Monstergarten helps young students understand the questions and feelings behind starting school.

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