Bookworm Sez: Illustrations make picture book fun

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Bookworm Sez: Illustrations make picture book fun

“He’s Been a Monster All Day!” by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Cyd Moore

c.2013, Sleeping Bear Press $14.99 / $15.99 Canada 32 pages

Mama says you’ve been bad today.

She thinks you’re not listening. She says you’ve done everything exactly the opposite of what she wants. You’ve used your outdoor voice inside, broken something valuable, made a big mess, fought with your sister, and you were sassy.

Mama’s at the end of her rope, then she says something that’s a little bit odd. In the new book “He’s Been a Monster All Day!” by Denise Brennan-Nelson, illustrated by Cyd Moore, she says something that lots of Mamas might say.

The little boy’s mother had enough!

She told the little boy’s daddy that the boy was a monster, but the little boy didn’t quite understand why. He thought he was good. He was just having fun. But if she thought he was a monster, well then… that was exactly what he’d be!

Monsters are scary and growly, they stomp and snarl, and they have fangs. Definitely, monsters scare people away. Maybe one of them would be Mom!

Yep, monsters are scary but they’re not scared. So the little creature that lived beneath the boy’s bed wasn’t so frightening anymore – in fact, that little under-the-bed monster made a good pet for a big-boy monster.

Maybe, he thought, he’d be the kind of monster that flies or has scales like a dinosaur. He’d be able to play in the mud, make lots of noise, and stay up all night because nobody tells a monster what to do. He could eat yucky things and be very silly if he wanted. And there’s absolutely no need for a monster to have manners.

On the other hand, being a monster can be very lonesome. Who wants to play with someone who’s growly and snarly, anyhow? Nobody likes monsters, really. And it’s no fun to eat ice cream or go to the beach all by yourself.

Maybe he wouldn’t be a monster after all. Maybe he’d just be a little boy.

He hoped Mom forgot about how naughty he was. Maybe she wouldn’t remember and he could start all over tomorrow. Perhaps Daddy would have something good to say to help Mom feel much, much better…

Don’t you sometimes look at your child and wonder what really goes on inside that little head – especially when frustration slips from your lips? “He’s Been a Monster All Day!” is one cute possibility.

There’s big imagination inside author Denise Brennan-Nelson’s main character, as well as a mile-wide mischievous streak. Her little monster-boy lets his wild side go, thinking up all kinds of rowdy things to do – most of which, I’m sure, the average child has likewise considered.

Of course, half the fun of a picture book like this is in the illustrations, and Cyd Moore adds nothing but delight to this story. Kids and parents alike will love the vibrant colors and the giggle-making artwork.

I think that if you and your child have ever had One of Those Days, then this is a book you’ll want on your shelf. For 3-to-6-year-olds, “He’s Been a Monster All Day!” ain’t bad.

“A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home” by Sue Halpern

c.2013, Riverhead Books $26.95 / $28.50 Canada 320 pages

They say it can’t be done.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, they say, but you’ve spent a good amount of time doing it successfully anyhow. Sit, stay, down, you’ve taught ‘em all. It just took patience and love.

And in the new book “A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home” by Sue Halpern, it takes patients and love – and sometimes, the teaching role is reversed.

Sue Halpern had her work cut out for her.

When she decided to train her seven-year-old Labradoodle, Pransky, to be a therapy dog, Halpern knew it would be a challenge. For most of her life, Pransky was a country dog, unaccustomed to leash, used to wide-open romps in the Vermont woods. She understood all kinds of words (including every synonym for “walk”), but teaching her the tasks she needed to know to formally visit the local nursing home wouldn’t be easy.

The requirements were overwhelming, but Halpern “soldiered on.” Six weeks after they began, she called County Nursing and Rehabilitation Home. Not long afterward, she went through orientation, agreed to several stipulations and a criminal background check, and Pransky passed the Therapy Dog test.

It was official: the Halpern-and-Pransky team was approved to visit County’s dementia unit… but Halpern felt uneasy. Nothing she’d ever done had prepared her for what they were about to do.

She needn’t have worried: her dog had it covered.

Theologians, Halpern says, recognize seven virtues: love, faith, hope, prudence, fortitude, justice, and restraint. Once Pransky started “working,” she taught Halpern to see those virtues in herself, staff, and the residents they visited.

There was faith for Clyde, a “big flirt” who told everyone that he was leaving County on the arm of a beautiful woman; love for Dottie and Iris, dear friends who couldn’t live without one another; restraint for Scotty, who’d been a teacher before dementia set in; prudence for Stella with a “beautiful singing voice;” and fortitude for Lizzie, suffering from a rare disease.

And through it all, “Hope was the thing with wispy, tan tail feathers, that was forty-three pounds, that came when called.”

Though Mom warned me not to, I have to admit that I judged this book by its cover. “A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home” looks, at first blush, like it might consist of humorous, rompish anecdotes of nursing home life.


While you will find a few unintentional nursing home chuckles here, author Sue Halpern spends most of her pages filling readers with goodness and stories of the near-miraculous relationship between pups and people. Hers is a quiet, Zen-like book packed with philosophy, theology, and a dog. It’s more reflective, more spiritual than other dog books, and it will make you look at your canine kids with a little more wonder.

Definitely, dog lovers and TDI teams will want to read this book, but I also think there’s plenty in here for Eldercare workers, too. If that’s you, then fetch this book because missing “A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home” just can’t be done.

(The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.)