Leonardo the Terrible Monster – A Small for Big Book Review

by Chris

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster – written and illustrated by Mo Willems.

About the book:

Leonardo is a terrible monster. Not terrible in the horrific sense, but terrible in the first sense; he’s just plain bad at scaring people. To his credit he doesn’t have a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth like Tony, and he isn’t big like Eleanor. He’s just plain and insignificant in the realm of monsters.

One day, however, he comes up with a fool-proof plan. He’s going to find the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole word and ‘”scare the tuna salad out of him.” After much research Leonardo finds Sam. Unfortunately, when he tracks down Sam and attempts to scare him, Leonardo learns that Sam’s sobbing has nothing to do with the ferocity of his scare, but with the fact that Sam is having the worst week of his life. From his big brother stealing his action figure, to getting bird poo on his head, Sam has had it bad.

That’s when Leonardo must make a “very big decision” – should he continue to be a terrible monster, or should he instead become a wonderful friend? Leonardo opts for the latter and he and Sam become fast friends.

Chris’s take on the book:

Leonardo the Terrible Monster is one of our favorite children’s books. Willems’ illustrations are done in his trademark simplistic style and have muted colors that look amazing together on the pages. Willems is a master of manipulating the page to get the most out of every spread. From the way he zooms in on Leonardo’s face during his “big decision”, making it huge across both pages, to his use of multicolored text and different fonts to emphasize or diminish certain aspects of the story. It’s hands-down one of the most gorgeous children’s books we own.

The story itself is perfectly paced and adorable. When Leonardo first sees Sam crying, he celebrates and gloats. Once he realizes the real reason for Sam’s despair, he abandons braggadocio for empathy. Leonardo learns that he doesn’t have to try to fit into the stereotypical mold of a monster and can instead focus on something he’s truly great at – being a friend.

Mo Willems is an amazingly successful children’s book author and illustrator and if your experience with him stopped shortly after Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus or Knuffle Bunny, you need to do yourself and your children a favor and get your hands on a copy of Leonardo the Terrible Monster.

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