Monsters Under the Bed

Monsters Under the Bed by Susan Fry

My children have a love-hate relationship with monsters.  At night, they refuse to sleep until I check inside their closet and under their beds – and recheck, and check again – for the slightest shadow of a sharp claw or a scaly tail.  But during the day?  They make a beeline for the most gruesome, most disgusting, most monsterly Halloween decorations on the street.

The following books capture this push-pull relationship perfectly.   Like horror films for grownups, the books allow kids to enjoy their monsters in a safe place, between pages they can close and reopen when they want to.


Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley.  Emberley’s “Big Green Monster” cleverly appears page by page:  cut-outs reveal two big yellow eyes, then a long, bluish, greenish nose, and so on, until the entire “Big Scary Green Face!” stares out from the middle of the book.  But while the monster might be scary, the book’s words empower kids to banish their fears:  “YOU DON’T SCARE ME!  SO GO AWAY, scraggly purple hair!”  Then, page by page, the monster disappears again, one feature at a time.  The generous use of adjectives can help younger children learn their colors.  The final page acknowledges the joy that even the most timid child can find in being frightened.  After a resounding “AND DON’T COME BACK,” tiny words whisper, “Until I say so!” Usually, this happens seconds later, when kids demand to read the book again.


I Want My Light On!: A Little Princess Story by Tony Ross.  Ok, ok, this book is actually about a ghost.  But it’s my favorite of the subgenre of monster-under-the-bed books in which the monster proves to be more of a scaredy cat than the child.  Also, the child in I Want my Light on! is a girl, which, for some reason, is unusual in monster stories.  Little Princess is terrified of ghosts.  So everyone in the castle, from the king on down to the maid, assures her that they don’t exist. Little Princess, of course, doesn’t believe them.  And when she hides under the bed, she discovers that a ghost is hiding there, too.  The terrified ghost flees to his own mother, who tells him, “Don’t be silly . . . . there are no such things as little girls!”


I Need My Monster, by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam.  When Gabe, the monster under Ethan’s bed, goes fishing for a week, Ethan is forced to audition a series of replacement monsters.  “I needed a monster.  How was I supposed to get to sleep if my monster was gone?” Ethan demands.  But none of them are quite as good as Gabe.  Herbert doesn’t have Gabe’s claws, Ralph actually uses nail polish, and as for the third monster?  Well, she’s a GIRL!  But just when Ethan despairs, slime oozes out from under his bed.  Gabe is back early.  “Those fish scare too easily.  No challenge at all,” Gabe tells Ethan.  Ethan is thrilled.  “Everything was back to normal . . . . I’d be asleep in no time.”  The fully rendered pictures, often spread across two pages, have a cinematic scope that may delight older children but frighten younger ones.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

You can check out the Sweet Peas & Stilettos’ children’s books page for quick access to all of Susan’s wonderful children’s book reviews.

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