Reviewed by Sarah Merchant
Lionel the Lonely Monster: My Grandmother used to tell me folktales about monsters in the skies, in the seas and under the bed, but Lionel, the pink, fluffy monster is reassuringly, refreshingly different. This book challenges the traditional view of monsters in stories very well. It teaches us about the importance of caring for and connecting with others, which is important in these times.
Despite Lionel’s gentle, charming ways, he finds it impossible to make a friend. Perhaps it is his size, horns and tail that frighten children away. Or is it others’ preconceived ideas of what monsters are like? There is so much expression shown in every eyebrow, mouth and claw here – even the horns seem to have personalities of their own! This book is an ideal vehicle for discussing emotions and empathy with the very young. Fred Blunt shows movement and sound with illustrations, resulting in a rounded narrative.
The hand-drawn aesthetic adds wit and energy to the plot. Children will appreciate the bold, youthful style, and I can imagine them grabbing handfuls of bright crayons in homes, schools and libraries, wanting to create their own monsters. Hide and seek, fetch and chase games feature throughout – a perfect way to introduce playground games to the very young.
Why do adults ignore or fail to see Lionel? This aspect of the book fascinates me, and I feel there are lessons for us all here. We should not be so busy and preoccupied that we fail to see what is important in life. We should not be passive bystanders when we witness prejudice and discrimination. I would also share this story with older children to open up discussions about equality.
Lionel does make a friend in the book – a lost dog called Milo. Yet, he faces a heartbreaking dilemma when he realises his canine friend ought to be returned to their distraught owner. Of course, Lionel does the right thing, and all ends well for our pink protagonist because of his selfless decision. Hooray for a book that ends with a hug!
In this playful, timely story, we learn that our actions are key, and inaction can also have profound consequences for others’ wellbeing. I would choose kind, responsible, empathetic, funny Lionel for a friend, although I am not sure he would fit under my bed!