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Book Review: Leonardo, The Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

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Leonardo isn’t like all the other monsters. He’s not tall, doesn’t have a lot of scary teeth and he’s not weird. No, Leonardo is an unusual monster — he’s simply not scary. As hard as he tries, he just can’t seem to scare anyone. But Leonardo has a plan. He begins to research the perfect candidate to “scare the tuna salad out of him!” After looking through several books, Leonardo finds the one: Sam.

Mo Willems has done it again, with Leonardo, The Terrible Monster. He has created a story with funny, engaging characters and unusual illustrations. Willems has a great sense of humor that is evident in all his stories and enhanced by his illustrations.

Leonardo is your typical two-horned, big-headed, green-eyed monster. For a monster, he’s rather cute. That’s where the problem is. The two adults he’s trying to scare, a couple that looks like Trixie’s mom and dad from Willems' Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, are not fazed at all by his antics. Particularly funny are the illustrations on page fifteen and sixteen of Leonardo, depicting him deep in research for the perfect candidate to scare.

On the left-hand page is a towering pile of books, and tacked around on the wall are pictures of kids with red “X’s” through their faces — obviously not perfect for the job. Books are strewn all over and there is a clipboard and calculator at hand. Leonardo has a pencil tucked behind his ear, his reading glasses on and a cup of coffee nearby to help him through his research. The book is oversized, adding another element of humor to the story.

In contrast to Leonardo is Tony, who has over 1,000 teeth. Willems adds a footnote to this page: “*Note: Not all teeth shown.” And there’s Eleanor who is so tall that Willems only drew her from the knees down. Then there’s Hector, “who’s just plain weird.”

When Sam makes his first appearance the reader can only agree with Leonardo that he is the perfect scare candidate. What gives Sam his diminutive look is that he’s drawn in the lower left corner of the left-hand page with his name right next to him. The rest of the left-hand page and the entire right-hand page are blank.

After Leonardo accomplishes his mission of scaring Sam he is pumped. When Sam cries, however, Leonardo “makes a very big decision.” Readers will laugh at Leonardo’s seriously magnified head. What is Leonardo going to do? Read Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems and find out.

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About Kate McCarthy Bond