Best Picture Books with Funny Monsters to Read Aloud to Kids

The big world often looks scary to a child, and these kooky, funny books can go a long ways towards minimizing a child’s fears. In the following six books, children will find monsters engaged in familiar activities like getting haircuts, or getting ready for bed. They will find out that even monsters sometimes have bad days when things don’t go right. They will even learn that some monsters are afraid of… Monsters!

Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott

Once a month after midnight, the local barbershop opens to an unusual clientele: Frankenstein, Vlad, Medusa, and other assorted monsters. The proprietor’s son has learned the trade at his father’s knee, and though he is nervous about grooming monsters, he gamely participates. After all, even monsters want to look their best.

The pictures are hilarious; in one we see the boy pondering a skeleton head and wondering what exactly he’s supposed to do. The language will have the little ones giggling once they understand the jokes: rotting tonic, stink wax, and shamp-ewwww.

Catch the trailer at It’s a monster barbershop quartet, what else?

Goodnight Little Monster by Helen Ketteman

This book takes every kid’s familiar bedtime routine – bathtime, snack, toothbrushing – and applies it to a monster family. Told in rhyme, the monster parent beckons the child to howl at the moon, drink “a cold glass of worm juice,” and eat a snack of “baked beetle bread.”

The illustrations are at the same time charmingly gross and wonderfully cute. Children will say a delighted “ewwww” at the baked beetle bread and laugh at the monster with toothpaste foam all over his mouth. Yet the muted colors and smooth surfaces tone down the “ick” factor. The monsters look more like stuffed animals than anything else.

This is a nice book for the child that wants the comfort of the bedtime routine, but likes feeling a little grown-up and brave reading about monsters.

The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable Furry Old Grover by Jon Stone

This beloved Golden book has had the longest staying power of any of the Sesame Street titles, probably because it invites so much reader participation. This was one of the first books for kids to break down the “fourth wall” and have the character in the book directly address the reader.

When you turn to the very first page, you come to a little dialogue balloon from Grover. “On the cover, what did that say? Did that say there will be a monster at the end of this book?” Kids love to feel smarter than the characters in books, and they will joyfully answer, “Yes!”

Grover continues the dialogue by saying, “IT DID? Oh, I am so scared of monsters.” From then on, he is on a mission to keep the child from turning the pages so that he won’t have to encounter the scary monster at the end. Kids love the feeling of power as they continue turning the pages, even though Grover tries to tie the pages down with ropes or build a wall of bricks.

Things escalate hilariously, until at the last page we find out that the monster is actually lovable, furry old Grover himself. Grover’s relief turns to bravado at the end when he says to the reader, “And you were so scared.”

If you remember the Grover character from your childhood, you can have a lot of fun re-creating his high-pitched, yet gravelly voice as you read it.

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

Thomas is a rising rock star in the world of read-aloud children’s books. Her stories are bright, brief, bold, and sure to tickle the funny bones of both children and adults.

In Can You Make a Scary Face, a large ladybug greets us and says, “Stand up!” When we turn the page, he says that he changed his mind and we should sit down. On the next page, he says he changed his mind again and that we should stand up again. I’ve been reading this book aloud to groups of children for about three years now, and they always think this is hilarious.

Once we are all standing up, the story keeps us moving–first by asking us to pretend there’s a bug on our nose, then by telling us to wiggle it off. Unfortunately, the bug gets in our shirt and we have to do the “Chicken Dance” to get it off. Things progress until all of a sudden we have a great big monster frog coming after us and we had to make a scary face to chase it away.

This is a book that promises to keep your child actively engaged in the story experience and is great fun to read over and over again.

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

Mo Willems, a Sesame Street alum, shot onto the children’s book scene with his first book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, the story of a pigeon who is trying to wheedle the reader into letting him drive a big bus. (And the children cheerfully deny him the chance.)

In this book, he recounts the story of a “terrible” monster, meaning that poor Leonardo is really terrible at being a monster. He is small and not at all intimidating, and people are more likely to say, “Look at that cute little monster,” than to be frightened of him.

So he hatches a plan to find the most scaredy-cat kid around and scare the “tuna salad” out of him. He finds a lonely and forlorn little boy, Sam. Leonardo feels successful when he makes Sam cry, but then he finds out that Sam has had one of those terrible, awful, no good, very bad days. In a wonderful two-page spread with great big letters, Sam recounts a litany of troubles: he stubbed his toe, his brother stole his toy, a bird pooped on his head, he got shampoo in his eyes when he was trying to wash out the bird poop, etc. etc. etc.

In the end, Leonardo decides that maybe he can be a good friend instead of a terrible monster.

Willems’art style uses simple lines and old-fashioned colors to tell his stories. His use of white space in this book is brilliant, and the pictures contribute at least half the fun to the story.

Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley

This is the granddaddy of all monster books. In the first half of the book, you “build” the monster by turning each cutout page and layering shapes until you have the monster’s face. You start with two yellow eyes, add a “bluish-greenish nose,” sharp white teeth, purple scraggly hair, etc.

“But,” you say at the middle of the book, “you don’t scare me!” Then we get to “unbuild” the monster by telling all the parts to go away. Children delight in repeating with the book, “Go away, purple scraggly hair. Go away, bluish greenish nose.” And at last, we get to banish those yellow eyes.

This book has remained a classic because there it fills so many different needs for a child. The Children feel like they have some control over things that might be scary. Along the way, the story also teaches children about colors, shapes, and sequencing.

If you have this book in your house for several days, your child will soon become adept at reading the story to you.

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