The Monstore and a conversation with Tara Lazar and James Burks

monstore breaker monstorefrontcover

words by Tara Lazar, pictures by James Burks

{published (TODAY!) 2013, by Simon & Schuster}

I have been looking forward to this book for a very, very, very long time. As long as it took Manfred to grow into a big old red monster from just a wee thing. (And once you know him you will assume like me that it took days and years and eons for that to happen.)

You see, Tara is one of those insta-friends. We’ve never met in real life, but she better prepare for a crushing hug of love once we do.

And in celebration of this grand opening, I went straight to the source. And so for you, enjoy this conversation with the creators of The Monstore. But beware…




Who did you create first, the kids or the monsters?  James

The one thing I was most excited about with this project was getting to draw monsters. As soon as I got the email from Simon and Schuster asking me to do the book I started sketching out pages and pages of monsters of various sizes and shapes in my sketchbook. Then I ended up going back and picking out the ones that I thought best represented Manfred, Mookie, and Mojo. The rest ended up being the background characters.

After that I designed the kids and the manager. The manager was probably the toughest because I had a different idea as to what I thought he should look like and the publisher had another. I originally pictured him being much bigger so that he could keep all the monsters in line but the publisher wanted something different so I ended up going in the opposite direction and making him small. I think he turned out great. He’s a great character. Kind of mysterious.


And the way that James drew the manager, it gave me an incredible idea for a sequel. But I may be getting ahead of myself.


How long did it take to arrive at your style for the illustrations? 


It didn’t take long to come up with the style for the book. It’s pretty much the way that I draw and design characters. The textured coloring was something that I had just started experimenting with because I wanted the book to look more picture-booky and less comic book style. I ended up creating some custom brushes in photoshop that gave me a nice textured effect and I left off most of the outlines so it felt more painted.


To me, the illustrations have a cool 3-D effect that I’ve not seen in other picture books. It’s just one of the things that makes THE MONSTORE unique.

{Carter here. Here’s a great example of that 3-D effect Tara mentioned. See how Manfred is busting out of that frame?! He can’t be contained!}


Do you have any favorite moments in the book?


I’m pretty happy with all the pages. There are so many great moments and things happening. It was a fun project to work on for sure. One of my favorite pages in the book is where the monsters are crammed inside the house. There are just so many fun things happening on that page. One monster flying a underwear kite, another eating the tree, and a third tossing a roll of toilet paper out the window. It’s contained chaos.

Keep your eyes peeled for the little eyeball character I named “Peepers,” he tends to hide in various places through out the book.


It was so cool when James told me he names all the characters he draws, not just the three monsters I mention in the text. It helps him to give each monster a distinct personality. So when my girls and I got the book, we started naming every monster. There’s a girly balloon monster they named “Kiki” and a monster who looks like he has buttons up his chest, so my youngest calls him “Elevator”. I think they are more creative than I am! My girls were also better at spotting “Peepers” hidden on the pages than I was!


This book is a fun house! You won’t know if you’re walking right side down or upside up. The colors will leap off the page and super soak your brain. It’s vibrant, funny, and a heck ton of surprising. James’ illustrations are the perfect complement to Tara’s wacky words, and you should put this in your nightly rotation pronto.

And maybe knock five times under the last box of sour gum balls at your local candy shoppe. You just might find The Monstore!

Also? I LOVE that the title on the spine is written from the top down. Three cheers for fewer library shelf-induced neck cricks. Am I right?!


Do you want a copy of this?! (Answer: YES.) Well, great, cause I’m giving a copy away! Just leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, June 11th at 12:00 PST, and I’ll draw a winner!

And if you can’t wait to play the odds, check this opportunity out! If you call Tara’s local indie (908-766-4599)to purchase a copy, they’ll ship it out to you signed and personalized!

{The cover image at the top of the post links to IndieBound, and Tara wrote an awesome post about other places to get The Monstore here.}







  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Happy pub day to Tara and James!I’ve been hearing about this book for awhile and I’m so glad it’s here! Love the interview and background on the characters~ my daughter is going to LOVE this (she’s very into monsters lately~ she loves the PB Time Out for Monsters :)) Thanks for the post, Carter!

  • rnewman504
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:26 am | Permalink

    What a fun, clever post! Mega congrats Tara and James!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    “Elevator”? OK – that is pure genius! Love this extended peek inside and hearing more from James. Can’t wait to own this book!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    I also feel like I’ve been waiting for this book forever! Can’t wait to finally read it. LOVE the 3-Dish illustrations!

  • Heather Flynn
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    I want one! Carter, I really love how you think and write about picture books. As a parent, I always feel lucky when I stumble upon an amazing children’s book, and your blog increases the likelihood of that tenfold :)

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Carter & everyone! I really love how The Monstore is written on the spine, too. Glad you noticed!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Loved this interview and look forward to reading the book!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Happy Opening, Tara and James! Fantastic post! Thanks, Carter! I can’t wait to get a copy of The Monstore!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed getting a sneak peek at the illustrations — they are fabulous! Burks illustration explode off the pages with such vibrancy. WOW! Can’t wait to get my copy.

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the interview!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Love the interview. Great concept and layout. I am still waiittttiiiiiinnngg for my review copy. I think you HAVE IT! 😛 I might just have to order it today, seeing as I can’t go to B&N and pick it up. doh!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Wow, great peek behind the curtain! Thanks for the post. Can’t wait to read this one with my monster lovin’ kids.

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Linked to your post today. Love your interviews!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Looking forward to seeing this one as well! I’m a serious fan of Monsters, Inc. and Burks’ monsters just make me smile as if they must be friends or at least distant cousins to Mike and Sulley!

  • danacarey1
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Congratulations to Tara and James! Happy Book Birthday (and many happy returns 😉 )!!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful Q & A! I love that all the monsters have names, even the ones in the background. Fun!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    What an absolutely fabulous book! I must get my hands on it. It’s so much fun. It’s one of those “I wish I had written that” book.

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Yay! So glad THE MONSTORE is finally here! Happy Book Birthday to Tara and James. What a fun interview.

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations and Happy Book Birthday! Love this interview.

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I just want to see the monster Tara’s kids call “Elevator” now!! Ooh, I wonder if that will be the sequel…the little boy has to take the elevator down to the zombie store…

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Carter, Tara, and James, for a great interview. Congrats and happy pub day!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Awesome post! I love all the behind-the-scenes tidbits. Can’t wait to get my copy of THE MONSTORE!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I’m excited about this story and to get a closer look at the art, the texturing and monster personalities. I totally get naming the characters you draw – sometimes it’s the other way around, and the name tells me what I need. So far I am loving the candy-cane arrows. Thanks for a great interview, Carter!

  • Posted June 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Tara!!!! and Carter!!!! (And James, too, although I haven’t met him online.) Fun interview! And the book…Oh, the book! I got mine today and I LOVE it in a monstrously HUGE way!

  • Posted June 5, 2013 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    This book looks like SO much fun. I’m excited to get a copy. Great interview, Carter.

  • Posted June 5, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    What a fun way to learn about how a book was put together. The book looks so fun. Can’t wait to read it.

  • Posted June 5, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I love the idea of naming characters in the pictures that may not be named in the text. Kiki, that’s a great monster name.

  • Posted June 5, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks again for all the kind comments. I hope everyone has a monstrous time reading the book!

  • Posted June 5, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    HUGE CONGRATULATIONS, Tara and James! I can feel your excitement! This looks to be such a wonderfully fantastic book is many ways. I would love to win a copy to add to my personal library, and which I would review on my blog and – of course! – enjoy reading with my grandson. :) Thanks, Carter, for sharing this delightful ‘conversation’ with us.

  • Posted June 6, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    What an exciting day! I’m so happy for both of you, Tara and James, and for MONSTORE! May this fun book soon be in the hands of a gazillion kids. Thanks also for the interview. I loved hearing about the naming of all the extra monsters.

  • tinamcho
    Posted June 7, 2013 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Such a fun interview, especially to get James’ point of view! I can’t wait to read it!

  • Posted June 10, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing all this with us! I absolutely love these kinds of interviews, it gives an invaluable perspective from both sides :)

  • Amy Burns
    Posted June 10, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Carter…. Thanks for such a fun blog! Enjoyed the interview… and Congrats to Tara and James! Looking forward to your next picture book adventure :)

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