Written and Illustrated by Bethany Barton
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013
Vacation is only a week away, and Stewart’s parents are taking him camping for the first time. Get excited!
Eek! It’s a: Monster!
Stewart is a snaggletooth monster with green hair and big eyes and he could not be more jazzed about his upcoming camping trip. But it’s five days away and he can’t stand it. Waiting is clearly not one of his skills. His parents try to help him see the truth of the old adage that good things come to those who wait, but he’s not buying it. So he tries manipulating the book to make the end, where he will get to go camping, come even faster. He turns pages, he rips pages and all it gets him is a stint in time-out. When his best friend gets upset about the end of the school year because she’ll miss her friends, Stewart realizes that they are both focusing on the future and missing out on the present. So he concentrates on his school work and learns more about camping and before he knows it, it’s vacation time.
Every parent has heard that dreaded question from the back seat: “Are we there yet?” Kids are not famous for their waiting skills and this book has fun with that idea, digging into the impact of impatience on everyone involved. And we can’t just limit this to kids, either, as I know more than a few adults who are just as terrible at having to wait. I’m a fan of anticipation myself, and enjoy planning trips far enough out to have some fun while counting down the days. Before our first family trip to Walt Disney World, we read guide books together and had quizzes and countdowns and special games to pass the time while waiting and now it almost feels like the countdowns are part of the overall trip experience.
Author/illustrator Bethany Barton first introduced us to Stewart in the 2012 book, This Monster Needs a Haircut. She has a really cute Stewart puppet that accompanies her to appearances. I really like the way the characters (and even the story text) interact with the book (and, by proxy, the reader). Most of the pictures are against a white page background, but the last two pages, when Stewart finally makes it to his camping trip, are colorful full page illustrations. It sends the message of how special the camping trip actually was and provides a really good conclusion to the story. This would be an excellent book for kids anticipating a big vacation of their own.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the future holds good things to anticipate and bad things to dread, but it’s best to live in the moment and enjoy what’s going on right now.