Jeremy Draws a Monster. By Peter McCarty. Henry Holt. $16.99.
Doodlemaster Rock Star! By Maria S. Barbo. Illustrated by Chuck Gonzales. Feiwel and Friends. $9.99.
Doodlemaster Fashionista! By Maria S. Barbo. Illustrated by Chuck Gonzales. Feiwel and Friends. $9.99.
A charming hybrid of Harold and the Purple Crayon and Dr. Seuss’s The Glunk That Got Thunk, Peter McCarty’s Jeremy Draws a Monster is the wonderfully drawn and delightfully written story of a boy who “never went outside” and who decides to make something to keep himself company. So he “took out his fancy pen and started to draw,” writes McCarty, showing the plump and neckless little boy with the “3” on his shirt standing on a stool in order to start at the top of his creation. Eventually, Jeremy creates his very own monster, complete with multiple horns, a spiked tail and a “3” on its chest. And this turns out to be a demanding monster, insisting that Jeremy draw it a sandwich – and a toaster – and a record player – and a checkerboard – and a chair – and more and more. Not knowing what else to do (who wants to antagonize a huge, bored monster?), Jeremy complies again and again, eventually drawing the monster a hat so it can go out and leave Jeremy alone once again. But the monster returns late at night, takes over Jeremy’s bed and bedroom, and now Jeremy has to come up with a clever way to get rid of it permanently. He does – and, in the process, emerges from his room at last and finds that he would rather play with other kids than go back to monster-making. The never-stated, soft-pedaled moral of the story is wonderfully delivered, and the illustrations, which use plenty of white space, make the tale a monstrously good one to read.
Kids who would rather do their own drawing – with a little guidance – can turn to two new books for preteens called Doodlemaster. Of the two, Rock Star! seems intended more for boys, and Fashionista! is definitely for girls. The idea here is guided doodling. One page in Rock Star! shows a wrestling ring and says, “Draw yourself in the ring delivering your signature move,” then asks questions about whom you are wrestling and what your theme song is. One page in a “Mad Scientist” section shows a petri dish and says to draw what is growing in it – and also provides space in which to write about your best and worst creations. A “Creature Feature” section says to “create the most horrible creature imaginable for the next blockbuster movie,” then give it a name and say what is the scariest thing about it. A two-page spread in Fashionista! shows a “regular girl” dressed in standard clothing – and suggests turning copies of her basic shape into such characters as a hipster, bookworm and punk rocker. A page showing a snow globe says to “draw a wintry scene” inside. One called “That’s So Warped!” says to draw your idea of a time machine and then write about the moment you would most like to skip ahead to – and the one you most want to go back to. A lot of the ideas in the books are pretty obvious, and some of the doodling guidance doesn’t really guide, such as a picture of a girl at a steering wheel, plus two tires, to show where to draw “your dream car.” The Doodlemaster books deserve a (+++) rating, though, for providing some interesting drawing ideas and for mixing up the doodling with enough questions to provoke at least a little bit of thoughtfulness. But thumb through the books before buying them to be sure that the art and writing strike you as a comfortable blend.