Summary: Eight year old Mandy isn’t what you’d call an emotional child. Whether at her own surprise birthday party, scoring the winning goal, or being stung by a bee, Mandy doesn’t show her feelings. Instead she draws them as MONSTERS in her sketchbook. But one day emotions run wild and those monsters escape! Mandy’s only help catching them is an eccentric monster named Happster, who causes more problems than he solves. Can Mandy catch all the sketch monsters and return them to her sketchbook before they destroy her town?
Sketch Monsters, vol. 1, by Joshua Williamson and Vinny Navarrete 6.5
‘Sketch Monsters’ is a book that tells the story of Mandy, an eight-year-old who has a difficulty feeling emotions. Even in moments when she wishes that she could, she is completely unable to.
For this reason, she begins to draw her emotions in her sketch book, in the form of monsters. By doing so, she channels that which she is unable to experience in real life: love, sadness, fear, anger.
But, one night, she wakes up to the sound of a thump, only to discover that the monsters have escaped her sketch book. Now she has to find a way to get them back in there – and fast!
With the help of another monster, Happster, she learns how to tap into her emotions in order to get the monsters to return to her book. In so doing, she becomes a much more well-rounded little girl.
I really enjoyed the basic idea behind ‘Sketch Monster’. It’s not always easy facing one’s emotions, even as an adult, and addressing this in picture book form can be an accessible learning tool for kids.
However, I didn’t think that it was clever enough in the way it broached the topic: while it acknowledged less pleasant feelings, to me it seemed to put the onus on the fun ones, dispatching the others quickly.
In my opinion, what this does is make some emotions more valid than others, and it contributes to the shaming of the others, adding to the likelihood that they will be repressed.
Personally, I think that children need to be aware of all their emotions and learn how to cope with them – not just focus on being spritely at all times. To be healthy emotionally, one needs balance.
That isn’t to say that the book could be damaging to kids. Hardly. I just think that it could have been conceived with more care, with consideration for what young readers might get out of it..
Generally speaking, though, it’s a nice book.
And the art is terrific: it’s eye-catching with beautiful colours and clean lines. The character designs are good and the monsters are a gas. And its basic composition makes it an easy read.
When I started reading it, I hoped that this might be a book I could give to my friend’s daughter as a gift. Sadly, I’ll have to keep looking; I’m sure there’s got to be a more fitting book on emotions for kids.
As it stands it’s more of an entertaining book than an educational one. But if I want to give something that’s just tons of fun, I already have a title in mind’ ‘Sardine de l’espace’, by Guibert and Sfar.
Still, this series is intriguing enough that I’ll check out its follow-up. Why not? Who knows, I might even learn a thing or two…