A boy faces his fear of bedtime in Heather Millard’s picture book Moonlight Monsters.
Alexander dreads bedtime and the monsters that arrive with it. One night four of them—Jangles, Mozzarella, Daisy, and Ritzi—appear as shadows on his wall. Ritzi feels bad for Alexander and tries to comfort him, telling him, “Think of something funny.” Alexander is scared, nonetheless, and runs downstairs where his mother allows him to have a cookie. Instead of eating it, he decides to be brave and re-enter his room, offering it to the monsters. They are impressed with his bravery, and Alexander falls asleep. Meanwhile, the shadows are happy about Alexander’s success conquering his fears.
The descriptions of Alexander are sweet and relatable, as he hides under his covers, “back humped up underneath them, making a big mountain.” One monster says that she “frightened George Washington when he was a boy,” a revelation that has extra impact because Washington is Alexander’s hero.
In illustrations, the shadow characters initially look like humans, but then are depicted as silhouettes on the wall. Their role is characterized as a job, guided by two rules: they only come in moonlight, and they never talk to the child. Newcomer Ritzi breaks the no-talking rules, later joined by the other shadows, and they help Alexander overcome his fears. It’s never clear if their job is to scare children or help them become braver.
The art is capable, but the design choices sometimes lead to momentary confusion. For example, Jangles is described as wearing a uniform, but isn’t shown until the next page. The shadows aren’t depicted after their first interaction with Alexander, and it’s not clear if he sees them as literal shadows or in their less-threatening human-like forms.
Finally, the story is text-heavy, with one double-page spread entirely devoid of illustrations.
Revision to clarify some of these issues would help enhance this offering about conquering a common childhood concern.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.