Momster is a delightful and instructive children’s book about the value of listening and doing your chores – the main value is not turning your mom into a Momster: a screaming, clawing beast with cloven feet and a dragon’s tail.
In spirited rhyme, Momster begins with a boy standing in a playground warning the other kids about the terrible Momster. When his mom asks him to help with the groceries, “It didn’t sound important so I finished the cartoon- Mom called a few more times and then she barked like a baboon!” things escalate from there. Eventually the boy realizes that to stop his mom from turning into a Momster he needs to give her hugs and follow directions.
This is a book that’s as much for the parents as it is for the kids, as it’s certainly a message they want to impart, and so parents (especially moms, but dads will also work) will get a kick out of sharing this book together. There’s maybe a bit of fantasy fulfillment at work that a kid will take the message of this book to heart, but whatever works! Kids don’t always listen or do what they’re told: this is an eternal truth.
However, there could have been an extra message explored in this short book. The blame for the mom becoming a Momster is laid entirely on the child. It’s true that kids can be lazy, but parents can overreact and take some frustration out on their kids. The child says “I’m sorry for being so lazy,” he could also say something like “I know you have lots of responsibilities,” or something along those lines. The fact is that parents can misbehave too, and exploring that would have given the book an extra dimension, as well as an extra lesson parents and kids could talk about together.
Without getting too heavy about a book for children, there are parents who are literally monstrous. This book is not for those families, it’s for the parents who lose their stacks every once in a while when a child doesn’t do what he or she is told. If a parent is truly overreacting, this book won’t make a lot of sense to a child.
For most kids, though, this book will be a lot of fun. What kid hasn’t thought their mom was acting a bit monstrous at one time or another? This book verbalizes what kids think sometimes, and parents and children will be able to laugh at all their foibles.
The illustrations are colorful and expressive, with a dramatic use of shadows. There are additional details on nearly every page – especially following the antics of a terrified turtle. The Momster herself is fun a scary-looking, but not too scary (unless a child is very sensitive).
The weakness in the illustrations is the lack of solid lines. Most of the drawings look like colorized sketches – very good sketches, but sketches nonetheless. This could be argued to be an artistic style, but you can see the artist’s hand at work, which appears a shade less professional.
Overall, Momster is an fun and engaging read for parents and children to share together, and a promising debut from Laura Jensen-Kimball.