Written and Illustrated by Mo Willems
Hyperion Books for Children, 2017
Sam was the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world.
The plot in a nutshell: An easily frightened boy makes a new friend.
Sam is afraid of lots of things, but his friend Leonardo (who is a monster) is not one of them. One day, he meets a girl named Kerry and her monster friend, Frankenthaler. He is terrified, but surprisingly, it’s the girl and not the monster that scares him (and she’s just as scared of Sam). The monsters think about it and then leave the two kids to sort it out on their own. Sam and Kerry discover they have lots in common, such as fear of spiders and love of ice cream. They also learn the opinions they have that are different, such as Sam’s love for tuna fish sandwiches and Kerry’s enjoyment of loud music. Leonardo and Frankenthaler return to see how it’s going and instead of two scared kids, they find two good friends and the four of them play together.
More than a decade later, author/illustrator Mo Willems brings back the characters of Leonardo and Sam from Leonardo the Terrible Monster and this time, we’re focusing more on Sam. We get to see that he has a lot of common childhood fears, yet he is friends with a monster, which is a good reminder that fear is a very individual thing. I love that Leonardo and Frankenthaler (what a great name!) leave the two scared kids alone to sort out their issues. Sometimes, monsters (and well-meaning adults) only get in the way and it’s good for kids to learn problem solving skills of their own.
The book itself is extra tall and thin, with large print that takes up the majority of the space on many pages. The illustrations are presented without backgrounds, so that you can focus on the characters and what they are doing and saying. As with most of his books, Mr. Willems has included some funny moments in here, too, such as the familiar pigeon popping out of a jack-in-the-box toy and the two monsters returning with cups of takeout coffee (which just seems funny for monsters to do). This is a worthy sequel to an already great book.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that every stranger has the potential to be your next best friend.