A draw-it-yourself picture book. What could that be? Enter Jerry Pinto’s Monster Garden to find out.

Reading Monster Garden was an experience that transported me straight back to the time I first read Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts, thinking how it made perfect nonsensical-sense, and wanting to draw my own pictures to accompany Dahl’s comic verse.

Opening with a rather quirky author bio, where you are invited to “go and draw someone like that”, Monster Garden gives the young reader free rein to create her very own monsters. What does a Scrumpeelious look like? The reader gets to decide. Budding monster enthusiasts will be delighted to discover for themselves a Sharmistickle and a Tankstomper, the intricate hows and whys of hunting and caring for a Chuppertyhoover and to paint something “grurple and chwetterby”, which has to be my absolute favourite from the book. You even get to write your own recipe for Moobie Pie!

I admire Duckbill Books for pushing the boundaries of a conventional ‘picture book’ with Monster Garden. This book invites the child to explore and experiment on the page, as opposed to simply telling her what to do, which is most definitely a welcome, if avant-garde, move.

This book would work wonders in a read-aloud session, and it will be quite exciting to see monster menageries being conjured up. Readers will definitely want to re-read this one. And re-re-read it. Apart from being a hilarious, laugh-out-loud experience, Monster Garden has that enchanting quality that makes you stumble upon something new every time you turn its pages.

Priya Kuriyan’s magnificent illustrations add whimsy to Monster Garden and have you chuckling all through. There’s also a lovely pull-out poster, the Monster Hall of Fame, with wild, whacky monster specimen of every shape, size and form you could possibly dream of – all the inspiration you’d ever need!

My only quibble is that the paper quality could have been better – for a book that is going to see some pretty heavy duty drawing on both sides of the page, that is.

The book is technically for younger readers, but, as a devourer of picture books, I would go easy on that rating. While I do wish this was a book I had as a kid, I am willing to bet that not many ‘grown-up kids’ can resist the idea of drawing monsters of their own. Hence I advise you to open the book armed with loads of crayons. You will definitely need it. Now excuse me, while I head off to draw my own monsters!

By Soumya Menon

Author: Jerry Pinto
Illustrator: Priya Kuriyan
24 pages
Rs 150.00
ISBN: 978-9383331260
Duckbill Books, 2016
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book
Age-group: 5+

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