Rachel Ortas has created “weird and wonderful characters who look cute but have a slightly menacing edge,” and the story they are a part of is rather like a weird and wonderful dream-like fantasy. I found The Messy Monster Book slightly strange, but also appealing. There’s an underlying narrative used to link together ideas about dreams and nightmares, seeking to explain what they are and that there’s no need to be frightened of them.
“We are all scared of something. Sometimes being scared is a good thing, because it protects us from danger. But sometimes we are scared of things that can’t even hurt us. We are just scared of being scared!”
All the illustrations are screen-prints and this is partly what gives the characters a whimsical feeling. Part-story book, part-activity book, the high-quality production feels a little at odds with the idea of drawing in it, which is suggested at several points and something I don’t think I could bring myself to do.
The Messy Monster Book could be a good discussion-starter with children, but I would recommend adults read it before reading it with children, or passing it on to them, to make sure they are prepared for any questions and are comfortable with the answers the book offers.
Title: The Messy Monster Book
Author/Illustrator: Rachel Ortas
Publisher: Tate Publishing, $24.95 RRP
Publication Date: December 2013
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture book