Monday, September 30, 2013


After reading Monster on the Hill  (Top Shelf Productions, 2013) by cartoonist Rob Harrell (Adam @ Home, Big Top), I am itching to share it with you. It was a blast to read - a book for kids of all ages, from children through adults, and will make a welcome addition to any library or classroom.  Monster on the Hill  is simply - fun. The characters are awesome, the illustrations are complement the tone, plot and characters, and dialogue is fun and the twists and turns are pure, unadulterated fun! 

I gave a copy of this book to a (very) reluctant reader and watched him sit a VERY long time, reading through this, smiling and reacting.  It was a joy to watch. 

Here's why:

A Brief Overview:
Monster on the Hill  opens with a family vacationing in Billingwood, England, 1867 when a large, green, large sharp tooth-baring monster breaks into the sweet shop they're patronizing. Fear on their faces and running for cover they miraculously survive at which time, the mom, exhausted declares "That's the most frightened I've ever been! EVER!" and the dad two panels later notes, "Why he's...he's BRILLIANT!...[The monster, Tentaculor] makes OUR town monster seem bloody pathetic doesn't it?" They then go back to the shop to purchase Tentaculor souvenirs! On the way home, Dad notes "I'm glad you had a good scare, children" as we see the children in the back of a surrey, noting how discouraging it is that  their town monster, Rayburn, is so lame.

Three days later we are back in the famiily's town and learn that in fact their home town, Stoker-on-Avon is at their wits end. The Town Fathers have called the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie, the disgraced town doctor to "fix" the town monster.  If he succeeds, he'll be reinstated and get his laboratory back.  Reluctantly the 'doc' agrees and when at the Monster's Hill, discovers that the scrappy street urchin and town crier, Timmy, has stowed away in his trunk and has decided to join him on this adventure.
MonsterOnHill2 Review of the Day: Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell
From: Monster on the Hill, by Rob Harrell (Top Shelf, 2013)

Why this is such a great addition and how it might be used in classrooms:
  • Aside from a few cuss words ("suck" and "hell")  Mr. Harrell's text serves as a wonderful jumping board to discuss language use, word choice, and the art of creating character voices.
  • When discussing Harrell's use of language you might discuss:
    • his choice of dragon names;
    • his use of British versus American English (example: "E's a bit of a soddy monster...";
    • his use of 'old fashioned' toys, vehicles, names, etc. 
      For example:
    From: Monster on the Hill, by Rob Harrell (Top Shelf, 2013)
  • The book is a wonderful way to help address themes of:
    • setting, meeting and not meeting expectations;
    • addressing fears; 
    • learning to use the skills and gifts one is given, while accommodating for those one might lack; 
    • the power of friendship;
    • the powers and pitfalls of pride;
    • facing and meeting responsibilities; and
    • finding one's 'inner voice'
  • I would also recommend a conversation about visual literacy - and more specifically about Harrell's use of color choice, artistic style and design:
    •  there is a wonderful congruence of color, image and context, so much so that the viewer feels transported to England, 1867
    • many of the jokes and humor in this book are done visually - through image.  Take this panel, for example:
    MonsterOnHill3 300x195 Review of the Day: Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell
    From: Monster on the Hill, by Rob Harrell (Top Shelf, 2013)
These are just a few classroom/book club/ read-aloud suggestions and whether read in or out of classrooms, this book will be wonderful addition to any library or reading list.

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 As always, I thank you for your visit.  Please leave your reactions and suggestions in the comments below.


  1. Hi Meryl ! It looks like a very pleasant book to read for children and also grown-ups. I love children books and bought many of them when my children were young. They are all Dutch books and my grandchildren all speak and read English, but my daughter works in a library and the children love reading, so they
    can read to their hearts' content.
    Have a great week, Meryl!

  2. This looks like it might work for my grandson who is still balking at reading. He "can" read, but his attitude is not good at the moment and he's only in grade 4...his parents' motto this year is "Use it and Lose it." Use his brain and lose his attitude! Nip it in the bud, I say! I'll do what I can to encourage him and this book just might help. Thanks,

    abcw team

  3. The idea of a monster conference, hobnobbing with his fellow creatures, cracked me up!
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  4. Life used to be a lot simpler. When I was a kid the monster on the hill was in Wanda Gag's The Funny Thing and it ate dolls. Kindly Bobo figured out how to please the dragon with jum-jills that were "nutcake-seedcake-cabbage-balls" and saves the dolls of the world for little girls to enjoy. When did things have to get so complicated? - Margy