Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Here’s something.

By Mo Willems. Published 2005, by Hyperion Books for Children. (Which I believe is now Disney-Hyperion.)

An old favorite, a forgotten gem. I was plotting a read-aloud for fourth graders, hunting for a picture book about meanness and bragging and being friends with someone different than you. In true Mo Willems style, this thing jumped right off the shelf when I ran my fingers across the spines. True story.

So I ignored my achy-creaky knees, and hovered over this on the floor of the library. It was one of the last purchases I made for the library before I left Virginia for California, but I haven’t given it two shakes of a nod since.

Not surprisingly, it’s brilliant.

It’s sheer size is in direct opposition to how terrible of a monster Leonardo is. I mean, he’s so big that he can’t even be contained to the cover. All we see is a peek of meek eyes and teensy-tiny horns. But we already know he’s pretty bad at being a monster. That juxtaposition is beyond hilarious, right? Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems So, he’s terrible. And terribly alone. Look at all of the white space on this spread, highlighting just how terrible and terribly alone Leonardo is. It makes his sad face even more pathetic. Awful. Awesome.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Adults laugh at him. He doesn’t have Tony’s outrageous stack of teeth. And then there’s Eleanor, whose purple pedicure and anklet only hint at what kind of monstrous mug she may have. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems But Leonardo has an idea  – a fantastic, scare-the-tuna-salad-out-of-a-scaredy-cat-kid idea. His plot gives him some bounces of confidence. And there’s less white space. More text, more oomph, more pizzazz from his plan. He’s not so alone.

Enter: Sam. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems The reader knows right away that Sam and Leonardo are cut from the same cloth of lonely. Sam has even more nothing around him. Sam isn’t even facing forward. Sam has the saddest pit of despair behind those wire rims. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsSo when Leonardo blaggle-blaggles, grrrrs, and roooaarrrs, Sam cries.

But. It’s not because he’s scared. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Now. Here’s where I did a combo of a laugh/snort/cackle/snot/wimper thing. Sam’s white space is filled to the brim with all of the awful things that were bouncing around under his bowl cut. A mean big brother! A stubbed toe! On the same foot that he hurt last month! Bird poo! A hurt tummy!

All of Sam’s insides just tumble out and stun that gruff old Leonardo. Look at how he’s clutching his chest! Swoon.

That’s why. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems And then – an epic page turn. Leonardo’s smart, caring, friend-brain fills up all of that white space. It’s like the part where the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes. By seeing his whole face, his thought process, and those very un-monster eyes, we watch his heart change. Just like that. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems The way Mo Willems uses space and size in this book shows us so much about Leonardo, Sam, and ourselves.

Friends. Flipping you forward since about forever.

ch

P.S. – For those fourth graders? Ended up going with Each Kindness, which is lovely beyond measure, and the moment was just shy of heart stopping. It was a perfect picture book morning. 

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22 Comments

  • tinamcho
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t read this one yet. So cute!

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    This is one of my favorite books! (And so is EACH KINDNESS!)

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Good picks!

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read this – what a cute story.

  • erin
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I checked this out from our library this summer for my 5-year-old. It was a huge hit with both of us. I just love Mo Willems. Such a wonderful story and pictures.

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    I remember checking this out when my oldest was very young. We really should revisit it. Thanks for jogging my memory!

  • Susan Halko
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Yay! Thank you for this.

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Have not seen this Mo Willems. I enjoyed your discussion about how it is paced and they use space. Great post!

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Thanks!

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The real genius is the person who chose the type!

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    YES!

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    SO GOOD!!!!!

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    this is one of our favourites. gets picked off the book shelf about twice a month which says a lot considering the vast number of picture books we have.

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I love that! It’s the size, right? So awesome and huge and WOW.

  • danacarey1
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this, Carter. Love how you got me interested story and then hooked me on the design!

  • Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Love that!

  • Posted November 20, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Carter, I’m so glad you brought this to my (our) attention! This book is adorable, and its message!—LOVE it!!! To me, Sam is perfect. The look on his “scared” face, then the purple “venting” page! PRICELESS! Definitely checking this one out :) Thanks!

  • Posted November 21, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I got to read such a cute book after a very long time, reminds me of those days when my mom would sit beside me and read picture stories like these ..:) Thanks ..:)

  • Abigail
    Posted November 22, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    A great storytime book! Saw the original art from this book at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art!

  • Posted November 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    What a nice book! Thank you for posting it :)

  • Posted November 25, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    It would be hard to read this aloud to kids without heaving a sob, it’s gorgeous

  • Posted November 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on lucianasaldivar.

2 Trackbacks

  • […] It’s definitely one I want to share early in the year with our fourth graders who are the school’s expert gardeners. It would pair well with The Curious Garden (for obvious reasons) but also classic unlikely friendship stories. Isn’t a trash-made monster-thing with picky underwear a pretty unlikely friend? I’m thinking about Amos and Boris and Leonardo the Terrible Monster. […]

  • […] It’s definitely one I want to share early in the year with our fourth graders who are the school’s expert gardeners. It would pair well with The Curious Garden (for obvious reasons) but also classic unlikely friendship stories. Isn’t a trash-made monster-thing with picky underwear a pretty unlikely friend? I’m thinking about Amos and Boris and Leonardo the Terrible Monster. […]