Lynn: Some kids just don’t like scary or creepy! A physically fearless six-year-old member of our focus group falls into this category; he markedly dislikes scary movies and scary books. So, on a recent visit, I was quite surprised to learn his first choice out of my ever-present book bag was The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo (2016) by Drew Weing.
Never underestimate the power of intriguing illustrations! Our six-year-old wanted to read it immediately, and what grandmother can resist such enthusiasm? Since we were babysitting for the weekend, any subsequent nightmares would be my responsibility. Fortunately, the monsters in this book are charming and quite friendly (as long as you overlook the fact that some accidentally eat each other). We read it together. Though I did the bulk of the reading, many of the sentences were simple enough for him to figure out.
The book contains three adventures, each of which features a different monster mystery. The trolls, ogres, and ghosts therein all start out a little scary, but in each case soon reveal a relatable case that needs solving. But who can solve them?
Enter Charles and his family, who’ve just moved to Echo City, where his father is renovating a dilapidated apartment building. Miserable from leaving his friends, Charles consoles himself by filing his books by subject, arranging his extensive battlebean collection, and updating his blog. After seeing a scary monster in his room at night, a new friend refers him to Margo Maloo, Monster Mediator. Margo, a very feisty girl, helps Charles confront the monster, a troll named Marcus. The two bond over battlebeans and straighten out a misunderstanding. Margo informs Charles that Echo City contains a whole community of monsters, then reluctantly allows him to tag along as her new assistant.
Charles, a chubby journalist-to-be, provides plenty of laughs. Meanwhile, the monsters all turn out to have reassuringly ordinary motivations. Weing’s drawings have a cartoon appeal, with large, spacious panels that work well for younger readers. His use of interesting perspectives and clever visual details add to the fun. The book has an underlying message of not judging by appearances, as well as a theme on the problem with gentrification that will catch the attention of older readers.
Margo Maloo will prove a complete delight for those who like their books a little scary, as well as those who don’t. An added bonus: it kept an extremely high-energy little boy still, focused, and fascinated for several hours. Here’s hoping for more of Margo Maloo’s files soon!