sighting (citing) monsters

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay One: Crankenstein

written by Samantha Berger, Illustrated by Dan Santat

Little, Brown and Company, 2013. hardcover.

crankenstein cover

All books should be read cover to cover, but Crankenstein (Little, Brown Company 2013) as written by Samantha Berger and Illustrated by Dan Santat really is a must. The book is a complete production and the subject–that dread state–crankiness. The inside jacket copy reads like a freak-show announcement:


Who is Crankenstein? He’s an ordinary kid, just like you. But on a Bad Day, he could transform into…Crankenstein! A monster of grumpiness that no one can destroy!



Turn the pages to see this creature of crankiness. You might even learn how to turn him back into a boy… If You Dare!

The end pages open with rain drops and close with sunshines; the before and after. The copyright page:

crankenstein copyright page

Is this like method acting or immersion–er–therapy?  The author bios at the jacket’s close involves further hilarity. The back cover: fresh scooped ice cream (with sprinkles) on pavement with the shadow of the monster, recently emptied cone in hand–“When cranky kids have monstrous days…” indeed.

I dare anyone to take maintain their miserable mood during the course of this read. Whatever the ambiance Santat finessed in order to depict this Crankenstein so convincingly, worked. The character seethes from where he storms and sulks on the page. And you can’t help but smile. We were laughing out loud.

Berger walks us through the most likely sightings of Crankenstein. I can still identify with the sing-song morning greeting as someone yanks open the curtain to that too startling intensity of daylight. Then there is teeth-gritting flame-encompassed “Mehhrrrr!!!” to the blindingly bright and smiling sun begs commiseration. Berger and Santat nails it. Of course “you might see Crankenstein […] when it’s way too hot for popsicles.” Stick clenched in a red sugary-ooze covered fist. Head thrown back while the other fist is shaking a damn you! “Especially when it’s way too hot for popsicles.’ Natalya was laughing uproariously at the next page:

crankenstein line
pre-text image

She points to the height sign. Yeah, you know this is not going to be good once Crankenstein learns of this! You see in this image how Santat uses the light to contrast mood and that relentless bright (just short of too much) and cheeriness earns my sympathy.

He looks sinister when he’s told “Bedtime!” Berger’s use of “definitely” in this sighting is perfectly demonstrated in the posture and the shine of the eyes off the page. The chill wears off quickly when another Crankenstein is introduced.

crankenstein pancakes
made me think of Sean

The color palette is always going to be vibrant and perfectly tuned when Santat is illustrating. I was struck by how close Santat brings us to the protagonist, the maple syrup, the candy bag, the arm extended, they are huge! The spare text proportionate. He fills the double-page spreads lent to each sighting. The exaggeration suits the temperament of the book, the identification with the character, and bonus:  no need to squint from the back of the reading-time rug.

Santat is talented and translates the humor in the story fantastically, but Berger is not outdone.  The textual narrative is well-timed. And the tone is one of “hey! we have bad moments, and these instances suck! but…” The “but” comes with a realization of just how ridiculous that tantrum is, and there are reasons to let that potential-rage-response slide of your back (or deflect off your head with a resounding “bonk!”). Humor is the best medicine for a hard day and you will find it in Crankenstein.


recommendations: You’ll be tempted to share this with your favorite grade-school-aged monster and you should go with the impulse, but this is a picture book for even the most darling (if such a beast actually exists)… This would be good to have after (or during) a hard day, and/or to gift your favorite younger-elementary-grade school teacher.

{images belong to Dan Santat and Little, Brown and Company}


PBMLOGO-COLOR_HIGHRES-300x300Dan Santat on “Why Picture Books are Important” (Nov. 2012) for Picture Book Month.  An excerpt: 

“The first book I ever read was Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff. My mother had read the book to me hundreds of times until the words became familiar to my own eyes. Then there was a realization that I was reading the book with my eyes without having to hear my mother’s voice. But it isn’t until you read a book out loud to others, that the world realizes that you are reading.”

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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