A Monster in My House, The Umbilical Brothers (authors), Johan Potma (illus.), Puffin Books, 2018

Synopsis: There’s a Monster in my Bedroom. Keep very, very still. Tell me you can see it. It’s giving me a chill . . . A funny, charming rhyming picture book about a house full of monsters with an unexpected twist from internationally acclaimed comedy duo The Umbilical Brothers. With gorgeous, rich illustrations by Berlin artist, Johan Potma.

When I received a picture book written by the well-known Aussie comedy duo The Umbilical Brothers I knew I was in for a treat. This picture book certainly delivers, too, and paired with German artist Johan Potma’s intricate and retro-feeling illustrations it’s one that both kids and adults will adore.

There are some picture books you read where the concept is so clever, fun and imaginative but also so head-whackingly brilliant that you think, “Why didn’t I come up with that?” A Monster in My House is one of those. The story, at first glance, seems to be about a group of ugly-but-cute monsters. However, breadcrumbs along the way, including even one inserted on the front cover, are there to warn the reader that there is another main character – someone who is really the character you’re meant to be on the lookout for.

The catchy rhyming text has great rhythm (almost all the way through), and is sure to appeal to young readers. The big twist that readers are alerted to at the end of the book will have kids gasping and giggling, and asking to read the story again right away. This is definitely an entertaining picture book that will be pored over many times.

Potma’s standout illustrations have much to do with the appeal of A Monster in My House. Each spread boasts an intricately-drawn picture made using acrylics and collage. Potma created his work against old wooden surfaces such as signs, box lids and cigar boxes, which add wonderful texture.

His creations mostly come in sepia tones (there are lots of reds, browns, greys and oranges throughout) which give the book a bit of a nostalgic feel. This is paired with a font that looks like it has been done on a typewriter, plus additions here and there of things like pencilled-in words and drawings, botanical and scientific illustrations, and old-fashioned cursive writing. This all adds to the old-fashioned stylings of the book and make it stand out from the crowd in an interesting way.

Potma’s illustrations are delightful in their detail, too. Apart from the key concept of the book that will get kids checking over the drawings to see what they missed the first time around, the artist’s pictures also contain added layers. For example, there are miniature paintings, shopping lists, book titles, pictures on walls and various other elements for readers to pick up on. Plus, all the monsters drawn throughout are done so with great care and attention. These are layered illustrations which really can’t be thoroughly appreciated on just one reading.

This book is perfect for monster-loving kids and any child who likes to have their expectations thwarted. It’s best suited to children aged around 4 years and above.

Please note: a complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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