Written by William Bee, Illustrated by Kate Hindley
Candlewick Press, 2015
This is Albert. And this is Albert’s pet monster, Sidney.
The plot in a nutshell: A boy enters his monster in a competition
Albert believes that Sidney is the best pet monster, so he enters him to compete for the title of Best Pet Monster in the World. In Round 1, which is a contest to see which monster has the hairiest warts, the judges see that Sidney has no warts at all (since he bathes every other day). Round 2 looks for the highest hover and everyone goes outside to measure the distance that each monster can hover off the ground. But Sidney is afraid of heights and never leaves the ground. He doesn’t fare any better in Round 3 (Most Parasites), because he only has two. His diet of sweets doesn’t help him succeed in Round 4’s Smelliest Fart competition and Round 5, Hottest Breath, goes just as poorly. When they get to the awards, Albert and Sidney are called on stage as the judges announce that they have set the record for lowest score and are given the Worst in Show award. Albert is happy, because he’d rather have Sidney than a hairy, flying, infested, smelly monster, after all.
Author William Bee has a wonderful time turning the tables on traditional competitions, making traits that are usually undesirable into traits that are valued in monsters. There are many funny moments in this book and I think kids would love the way the humor plays out. Each competition round plays out in a consistent way, providing a lot of repetition in the text, for early readers who enjoy repetition. The book’s message is never heavy handed and instead plays out very subtly, reminding the reader that your opinion of those you hold dear should always carry more weight than society’s standards.
Kate Hindley’s artwork, in pencil and paint with digital color, is filled with things to explore and enjoy. There are lots of different kinds of monsters, although many of them conform to a vaguely similar shape. You’ll find diversity in the children, judges and even the tech crew, which plays into the book’s message, in my opinion. This one is a lot of fun and I felt a lot of sympathy for the poor judges, who had to endure quite a lot to make their choices.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that you should judge your friends by your own standards, not anyone else’s.