PPBF: Monster Needs A Costume

Monster Needs a Costume
Written by Paul Czajak, illustrated by Wendy Grieb
Scarletta Kids Press, $16.95, Ages 3-6
Themes: Making choices, Halloween, dress up

Sept 2014 end 004

As soon as back-to-school shoppers emptied stores of pencils, notebooks and glue sticks, the shelves were replenished with pumpkins, candy corn and costumes. For many parents, this becomes a trying season. Trying to ignore those jumbo bags of candy until Halloween. Trying to allay fears of scary sights and sounds. Trying to be patient as children mull their costume options before the big night!

Opening/synopsis:  A delightfully indecisive oversized beastie tries on a variety of outfits and personas to find the perfect apparel for trick-or-treating.  Told in rollicking rhyme, a boy offers a series of helpful and comical suggestions: “I said to Monster, ‘Do you know what kind you’d want to wear?’ / An astronaut? A fireman? / A giant Bartlett pear?” 

Monster chooses to be a cowboy until he tires of it after one week wearing a 20 gallon hat, bandana and sheriff-starred vest. Next he wants to be a ballerina, but dances in a tiara and pink tutu to the point of exhaustion. “He kept on dancing, day and night, until his feet were sore./ But then he didn’t want to be a dancer anymore.” His third selection, a masked stealthy ninja, also fails to be just right. Will Monster be inspired once again before Halloween night?

Czajak’s story snaps along in brilliant rhyme, incorporating fantastic and unusual vocabulary words. Monster cowboy wants to rope some “desperados” and Monster ballerina spins in “pirouette, plié and tendu.” Monster ninja throws a “shuto and some round kicks” in the air.

Grieb’s Monster is a plump, purple furry fellow with double yellow horns, floppy tail, huge feet and fang-spangled jaws. As Monster imagines himself in various costumes, the images are black and white then burst into full color as he plays out his ideas. The illustrations are well-paced, incorporating large double spreads to show details. The silliest costume choices fill single pages perfect for sharing in a story group setting.

Why I Like This Book: This clever story is mild enough for youngsters timid about trick-or-treating, and funny enough to entertain older kids struggling to find the perfect original costume idea. The satisfying ending is a brilliant mash-up celebrating creativity and individuality.  Monster Needs a Costume is definitely a delicious Halloween treat!


  • Watch the funny book trailer
  • Download Monster coloring pages
  • This is a stretch – but since Monster contemplates dressing up as a Bartlett, make these adorable Halloween pear ghosts from The Pear Dish!


Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Portions of this review first appeared in North Shore Children & Families, October 2014. Read your issue online here.


About Cathy Ballou Mealey

Children's book author, repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, alumna, autism advocate, book reviewer. Reach me via email at cmealey@post.harvard.edu or Twitter @catballoumealey
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37 Responses to PPBF: Monster Needs A Costume

  1. Great review of a great book, Cathy! Readers: you can find this book at Target as well as your local indie bookstores. Lots of fun!

  2. rnewman504 says:

    Cathy, This book sounds super cute and very clever. Great review! I’ll add it to my list.

  3. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    I may “try” this one post-Halloween. When we looked at costumes, Enzo said he wanted to be a dinosaur like last year (it’s really an iguana, but who am I to correct?). The rhyme looks great too. Thanks.

  4. Catherine Johnson says:

    What a neat idea! It sounds adorable. I can’t make costumes this year or use what we already have because my son wants to be The Flash and I don’t have a red bodysuit. Can’t think why lol.

  5. What a great Halloween book that really is outside of the box! Know some grand kids that would love this.

  6. I’m the one trying to avoid eating all the candy, but I still love Halloween. This book and your review captures what many of us have experienced. Have a copy and now cannot wait to read.

  7. Sue Wang says:

    How fun and entertaining. I like the rhyming. I keep thinking, let the Monster be the Monster -that’s a costume too? The whole school year is trying for me. Trying to get up early on a regular basis.

  8. Joanna says:

    The rhythm and humor in the opening stanza totally drew me in. What fun!

  9. Wendy says:

    Now I don’t know whether to make my pear a mouse (for Sue Heavenrich’s post) or a ghost for this one! I think I need a pair of pears.

  10. One of my favorite things in my career as a mom, has been to make the costumes – so this sounds perfect for me, Cathy!

    • Really, truly??? Because I have spent a few less than fun hours this afternoon cutting up an oversize blue hoodie and turning it into a Teen Titans Raven cosplay cloak. At least I was able to buy the black leotard! 😀

      • I don’t know how to work a machine, so I AM crazy, but I have had more fun making from used bits than just putting the right pcs together. That was my creative outlet (and soccer tshirts instead of trophies), before I got back into drawing, Cathy.

  11. It seems to be pear week!! Yum! this book looks hilarious! I’m in need of some new Halloween tales. I’ll have to sniff this one out! Thanks!

  12. Sounds like a perfect book for this time of year. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for telling me about it.

  13. Monster is a great character! 😀

  14. clarbojahn says:

    Love the premise of this book! Monster indeed!

    Thanks for introducing us to this book. I’ll be on the look out for it in the library. 🙂

  15. What a cool book even for the young kids. I was just thinking how time has flown by and now we are thinking about Halloween and costumes! 🙂

  16. OMGoodness, Cathy! This book looks so cute and delightful, and SO TRUE to kids! 🙂 How many times have we all gone through that indecisiveness? And it matters so much to them, you have to take it seriously 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing this one! 🙂

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