November 02, 2023


The Monster Mac and Cheese Party. By Todd Parr. Little, Brown. $17.99.

     The problem with being a monster, you see, is all those pesky humans out there. They just don’t understand what monstrousness is all about. Oh sure, they play around with what they think is monstrous at certain specified times of the year, such as Halloween, but they can’t imagine what it is really like to be a monster all the time. They don’t understand any of the basics – like monstrously good eating.

     Well, luckily for little monsters everywhere, Todd Parr has some sort of direct connection between his brain and the monster world, because here he comes with The Monster Mac and Cheese Party to help young humans (ages 4-8) figure out just what monsters love to eat, and just how they love to do it. No, they do not like to eat the young humans themselves! Not these monsters! In fact, they just want to be left alone – without any humans around – to have their very own mac-and-cheese party.

     Being thoroughly tuned in to monster thinking, Parr opens the book with a monstrous invitation to the party and a monstrous reminder that there are “NO HUMANS ALLOWED!!” because “MONSTERS DO NOT LIKE MACARONI AND CHEESE MADE BY HUMANS! (IT’S BORING.)” And now that that is out of the way, Parr opens the doors to all the forms of deliciousness that monsters do like.

     Every party guest brings his, her or its favorite mac-and-cheese delight. The bat’s contains bugs, some of which look suspiciously happy to be in the bowl and a couple of which have three eyes. The witch’s glows in the dark and contains “snakes and furballs” (no doubt thanks to the black cat that arrives with the witch). The zombie offers “mud mac with fingers” – a whole handful of them, in fact. Werewolves, spider, mummy – everyone (or everything) brings a suitably special dish, suitably pictured with just enough grossness to elicit an “ewwwww!” from young readers without ever going beyond the strictly cartoonish art into anything truly “ewwwww!”

     Everything is going along swimmingly, and not just because the sea monster has brought mac-and-cheese to eat in the bathtub. But then – uh-oh – something unexpected rings the doorbell! And it turns out to be – TWO HUMANS!!!! And they have brought “their favorite mac and cheese. FROM THE BOX!”

     This absolutely will not do! Or – well, maybe it will. The monsters (which look mostly like cartoon versions of germs) go through a “boring!” and “eeek!” stage but then explain that really, “we love humans,” and as long as the boy and girl have shown up, everybody can sit down (or stand up, or lie down, or perch somewhere – whatever) and share everyone else’s version of macaroni and cheese. Parr ends the book with the monstrously apt message, “It’s good to try new things and make new friends,” which will inevitably lead young readers and any nearby adults to try to decide which monster-style mac and cheese would be best to try.

     Parr actually has a suggestion on this last point. At the back of the book, he provides two good-for-humans, made-from-scratch mac-and-cheese recipes, including one that is vegan. They are simple, straightforward, easy for kids to make with a little adult assistance, and can be consumed while rereading The Monster Mac and Cheese Party as long as readers don’t eat with food stuck to their fingers (or other appendages) and mess up the pages. Unfortunately, Parr’s recipes omit the eyeballs, furballs, insects and other enhancements in the monsters’ preferred versions of the dish. Adults may want to be careful to ensure that kids don’t look for ways to add some of those items on their own.

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