reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

Monster Needs a (Mimi-Made) Costume


Mimi’s at it again. Toiling away in her basement—cutting fabric, sewing seams and carefully attaching appliques. Before she was Mimi, back when she was “just” my Mom, Octobers were much the same, and by the 31st my brother and I were always decked out, wrapped up or securely attached to our extra appendages. In other words, we were ready for the Halloween parade and trick-or-treating festivities in town.

Look out! Here comes a three-legged-monster! Smile! I’m a tube of Crest toothpaste! I’m Anne of Green Gables, a cat, a scarecrow. My brother—a dog, a vampire, a mummy, a pirate with a leg that for one night wasn’t cast over broken bone but a peg

Each costume was expertly and lovingly made my mom. How she found the time to sew them in-between grading papers and everything else is a mystery to me now, but the memories of her making them, and of crunching leaves and counting candy in them, are spooktacular.

For the most part my Mom had a Halloween costume making hiatus during our high school and college years (although there was that teeny, tiny Mrs. Claus costume she whipped up for me my junior year of undergrad…)

But like I said, with the arrival of five grandkids over the last four years her Octobers are once again booked. She has sewn my kids a pumpkin costume, a cupcake costume, a blue bear, and this year she is making not one, but two Elsa dresses and an Anna dress for my daughter and my nieces, who have in the past also been a Mimi-Made kitty cat and M&Ms.

The season begins with the snip of Mimi’s scissors and the whir of her sewing machine. Halloween is coming…and the kids need costumes…

So does Monster!

Monster Needs a Costume, by Paul Czajak, illustrated by Wendy Grieb (Scarletta, 2013) is a rhyming read-aloud that received an immediate “read it again, Mommy!” rating here at Picture Book House.

With seasonally-satisfying, slightly spooky pictures, a monster who can’t make up his mind what to be for Halloween, catchy (and even educational!) diction and a clever ending, kids are eager to look at and listen to this easily relatable tale.

It begins:

“Monster needs a costume for his favorite time of year. ‘It’s nearly Halloween,’ he roared.’ ‘The day is almost here!’”

On the next page the boy Monster lives with begins his first person narration:

“I said to Monster: ‘Do you know what kind you’d want to wear?’ An astronaut? A fireman? A giant Bartlett pear?”

On the next page, in a black and white illustration that effectively contrasts the other pictures, Monster announces that he wants to be “…a cowboy from the West. And rope some desperados with a star upon my chest.”

Call the boy Mimi! He cleverly crafts Monster’s costume, complete with a ”twenty-gallon hat!”

But by the time Monster wears his cowboy costume EVERY single day of the week (which he does on the next spread), he changes his mind and decides to be a ballet dancer for Halloween, instead.

My son has spent the last year dancing to Frozen in the living room wearing a Superwoman costume, and so I deeply appreciate Monster’s choice to wear a costume with a skirt.

Just as we got cowboy vernacular, in this scene we get to read about pirouettes, piles, tendus and first position as Monster wears (and wears out) his next costume choice.

Nicely following the satisfying rule of threes, Monster gives one more costume a try—now he’s a ninja!

In the end, it isn’t “the one,” either.

What is?

The first time I read the book at this point I chuckled out loud, thinking that I had predicted the ending—Monster would (of course) go as….himself! A monster!

Well, I’d better eat my English degree because—no! Czajack has an even sillier solution up his sleeve:

“From up the street and down the block Monster was a sight! The Dancing Cowboy Ninja was the costume of the night!”

The only thing that would have made this Cowboy-Dancer-Ninja costume better, of course, would be if Mimi had made it.

Although I’m not sure she’d have time. When she’s finished with the Frozen sisters she’ll be busy attaching Superman’s cape to Spiderman’s suit…so maybe next year, Monster.

*Monster Needs a Costume has been a great introduction to the Monster and Me books, and we look forward to reading more in this series.

My son as  a Mimi-Made Pumpkin:




Me as a Mimi-Made Pumpkin (circa 1982):


My favorite costume of all time, a three-legged monster. The left arm was a dummy and I used my real left arm to operate the third leg:


Second favorite costume (self-explanatory):





In the parade:




Anee of Green Gables:




My daughter, the blue bear:



With my sweet nieces:




And gosh darn, I just can’t find one from that year I went as Mrs. Claus 😉


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