Review of Monster Hands

Monster Hands Monster Hands
by Karen Kane and Jonaz McMillan; illus. by Dion MBD
Preschool, Primary    Paulsen/Penguin    32 pp.
5/24    9780593532294    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780593532300    $10.99

After reading several bedtime stories, Milo makes the mistake of reading a book about a monster under the bed. Oh, no! In his fearful dilemma, he turns to his friend Mel, who is looking out her window from across the street. Mel has many ideas about how to scare a monster away, and with American Sign Language (ASL) and his flashlight, Milo manages to sign-shout and shadow-play that monster into oblivion. At heart, this is a straightforward story of friendly help and brave problem-solving. Appropriately, given that it is expressed partly in ASL, what makes it energetic and dramatic are its visual qualities. Blues and purples create a shadowy, twilight atmosphere, out of which the imaginary monster gleams like a chortling jack-o’-lantern. The warm yellow light of Milo’s flashlight gives full play to the shadows his hands cast as he signs, “Roar! Chomp! Mwuh-ha-ha!”—a bold, visual shout that banishes the monster. Clever use of panels and framing make the children’s signing particularly viewer-friendly, and illustrator MBD depicts clearly and expressively ASL’s dynamism: these hands and shadows are making words, not just scary shadow pictures. Unlike so many stories that make an issue of the use of ASL, this one naturally and easily shows it as the language these children use—allowing the drama of the story to take center stage.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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