Leonardo, the Terrible Monster Hardcover – Sep 1 2005
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 1–Leonardo is a terrible monster–terrible as in he can't scare anybody. He's not big, doesn't have hundreds of teeth, and isn't even weird. So one day he comes up with an idea: He would find the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world…and scare the tuna salad out of him! After much research, he chooses Sam, sneaks up on him, and [gives] it all he [has]. When the boy cries, Leonardo is convinced that he is a success. But Sam proceeds to recite a litany of wrongs that actually brought on his tears: My mean big brother stole my action figure right out of my hands…, and on and on. Leonardo makes a decision that is sure to surprise and delight readers. Willems's familiar cartoon drawings work hand in glove with the brief text to tell this perfectly paced story. It is printed on pastel grounds in large, fancy letters that change color for emphasis. Sam's list of woes marches across a spread. Leonardo, a small greenish-beige creature with tiny horns; blue eyes; and pink nose, hands, and feet, first appears in a lower right-hand corner looking dejected, but when he makes his momentous decision, his circular head fills two pages. His antics to produce a scare will have youngsters laughing, while the asterisk next to the number of monster Tony's teeth (*note: not all teeth shown) will have grown-ups chuckling, too. A surefire hit.–Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
PreS-K. "Your Pal, Mo Willems," as the cover reads, offers a simple message-driven story, elevated by a smart, striking design. Leonardo is supposed to be a terrible monster, but he's just terrible at his monsterly craft. Small, with big blue eyes, a blue tongue, and a furry body, Leonardo looks like a tiny, unassuming brother of a Wild Thing. He gets an idea: find the most "scaredy-cat kid" in the world and "scare the tuna salad" out of him. He finds Sam, who seems an easy mark and bursts into tears. But on a clever double-page spread, Willems lists the real reasons Sam is crying, starting with "My mean big brother stole the action figure out of my hands" and ending with a bird's pooping on Sam's head. After thinking it over, Leonardo decides to move from terrible monster to wonderful friend. This oversize book uses thick paper in the colors of a desert sunset. Sam and Leonardo take up very little room on the large pages; the old-fashioned lettering dominates the expanse of color. A winner for story hours, with plenty of discussion possibilities. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
He didn’t have 1,642 teeth like Tony. He wasn’t big like Eleanor. And he wasn’t just plain wierd like Hector.
What’s a poor creature to do? Simple. Find a scaredy-cat kid – and scare the tuna salad out of him! (Mo’s words, not mine.)
So there he is: moony, sourfaced, unsuspecting Sam. Is Sam the perfect candidate? Leonardo is about to find out and the ending is a darling dénouement to a monstrous dilemma.
Is there doubt that Mo’s personality shines again? Not for me! Sam the unsuspecting kid is a great illustration. And Leonardo’s facial expressions are spot on.
Playful and gentle and nicely paced, this is a cute, neat book!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Meet Leonardo. Leonardo has a problem. As any child familiar with the concept of monsters knows (or who has seen "Monsters, Inc", anyway) the job of that particular creature is to be scary. In this respect, Leonardo fails miserably. He just ain't a fright. When he attempts to do so he earns patronizing looks of the awww-isn't-the-little-fella-cute variety. Other monsters either look or act in a disturbing manner. Not our Leo. Fully aware that he needs a plan of some sort, Leonardo decides to locate, "the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world" and frighten the bejeezus out of 'em. Sam is that kid. When Leonardo attempts to scare Sam it seems at first as if it has worked. Sam is, after all, in tears. The kid, however, claims that Leonardo's sorry excuse for a scare was not the source of his tears and then proceeds to outline exactly how horrible a day he's had and why he's been on the brink of tears ever since. Leonardo is moved by the little boy's story and resolves there and then to become Sam's friend. For a moment it looks as if the two little guys walking off holding hands will be the last picture in the book, but this is a Willems title after all. Though they're definitely buds now, the book admits, "that didn't mean that he [Leonardo] couldn't try to scare his friend every now and then". The real ending of the book? Sam joyfully running after Leonardo after the monster really has scared him a little. Happy ending for all.
So let's take a look at this book. Prior to "Leonardo", Willems was a fan of the square and the long horizontal shaped picture books. There are lots of theories out there that talk about how the shape of a children's title determines the kind of story it is. By and large, books (like "Leonardo") that are long and vertical tend to be far more interesting artistically than their square or horizontal brothers. Certainly this is Willems' most beautiful book to date. The cover looks like an old-timey wanted poster, or perhaps playbill for some penny-dreadful theatrical production. Inside, Mr. Willems make great use of space. The font is beautiful and ornate up until Sam's two-page explanation about how much his life sucks. At that point it becomes blocky and bold. Figures sometimes fill entire pages and sometimes, as when Leonardo is shocked or miserable, they take up just a tiny bit of room. It's clear that there is a very careful calculation behind each picture that determines where a figure is, how much space he or she takes up, and where the words on that page should go. Though I have great respect for "Knuffle Bunny", love the "Pigeon" and am appreciative of his instructional books like "Time To Pee" and "Time to Say Please", this is Mo's best artistic work to date. The title is just as much about what Willems doesn't illustrate as it is what he does illustrate. It makes for a gorgeous read.
Mr. Willems once worked for "Sesame Street", so I found his return to the monsters-are-scary concept especially amusing. He knows his child audience and knows it quite well. In a picture that features a monster that is far scarier than Leonardo, we meet Tony who is said to have 1,642 teeth. An note attached to the bottom of the page, however, reads, "Note: Not all teeth shown". Why put that on the page? Because Mr. Willems knows perfectly well that if you draw a monster and claim that he has 1,642 teeth, your child readers will all count those teeth and cry bloody murder that there are only 148 in the picture.
Now I need your help. Remember when I said that I saw Mr. Willems speak in NYC? Well at that time he mentioned his best beloved and universally applauded (not to say Caldecott Honored) book, "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" and its subsequent spin-offs. In the course of the discussion, Mr. Willems confided that the pigeon now appears in all his books, regardless as to whether or not that book is about him. In "Knuffle Bunny" it appears on someone's shirt. And supposedly it can be located in "Leonardo, the Terrible Monster". Now I have scanned this book from tip to toe. I've inspected each and every page with a fine tooth comb. I've meticulously culled every last stroke of the pen in an effort to find the deceptively simple fowl and I cannot for the life of me locate him anywhere. If you do happen to find the pigeon I want you to write a review of this book on Amazon and tell the whole wide world where to find it. Honestly, it's killing me not to know. Otherwise, there is nothing is this book that is objectionable in the least. It's lovely to view, has thick pages that will stand up to a lot of wear and tear, contains a story that is hard to resist, employs a great color scheme and font, and is just an all around joy. A monster must-have.
My English teacher read this book to us in class and I thought it was the greatest and funny.
My favorite part was when Leonardo made his first friend.
I recommend this book for all kids.
I also like this book by Mo Willems: Edwina The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct.
I hope you like it too.
I have to admit, I'm a little (but not much) outside the suggested reading range for this book, which according to author Mo Willems is 3 to 36. Alas, I was 37 at the time I read it. I will attempt not to let this affect my judgment in any way.
Leonardo is a monster who's incapable of scaring the tuna salad out of anyone. (And if nothing else, the phrase "I'm going to scare the tuna salad out of him!" is worth the price of admission here.) This makes him, of course, a terrible monster. Leonardo hatches a plan: find the scardest kid he can and scare him. He finds a possible target, and... well, that's a spoiler.
It's a cute little book, nothing earth-shaking (except for the tuna salad line), but a quick bit of fun to read to the kids. Pull a copy out of your local library before laying out the cash to see how your kids take to it, but I think they'll get a kick out of Leonardo. ***
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