Leonardo, the Terrible Monster is a children’s fiction book by Mo Willems. Leonardo is a monster that just wants to scare the tuna salad of out someone, but no matter what he does, he just cant seem to make that happen. After much training and research, he finally finds the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world, Sam, and gave it all he had. Leonardo boasts with excitement after successfully making the little boy cry, but the little boy snaps back at Leonardo and explains that he was crying due to his mean big brother stealing and breaking his action figure, causing him to kick a table hurting the same toe he stubbed a month before in the bathtub because he got soap in his eyes trying to wash the bird poo his brother’s cockatoo pooped on his head. And his tummy hurts. After much thought and consideration, instead of being a terrible monster, Leonardo decided to become a wonderful friend, that still tries to scare his friend (Willems).
The lines in Leonardo, the Terrible Monster are very thin which represent delicacy, possible foreshadowing the fact that Leonardo, in fact, isn’t all that terrible (Galda 70). The color used in the illustrations have more laid back tones, giving the book a subtle or quiet feeling (Galda 71). There weren’t many uses of shape in this book. The background of every page was a blank, negative space. I believe the author chose to do this so when Sam screams at Leonardo and the words take up the entire background of the page, it causes a greater effect. Continuing the relation of calmness throughout the book, the texture of the pictures are very smooth (Galda 74). The deign elements that Mo Williams used really ties the whole book together. When discussing the other scarier monsters, he filled a double spread with the legs of a monster to show how big it was, he used sharp teeth for the monster with 1,642 teeth which gives off a scarier effect, while Leonardo is a small monster which gives off comfort and safety. The background of the pages is lighter than the objects on the page, which again, gives off a calming effect (Galda 76). The style of this book is an outline style which emphasizes line and often reduces features to simplified shapes (Galda 85).
Narrative elements include setting, characterization, plot, theme, and style (Galda 110). The setting of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster takes place in present time in the real world, with monsters of course! The main characters of the story are Leonardo, the not so terrible monster and Sam, the seemingly scaredy-cat kid who is really just upset with his brother. There are other characters in the story who don’t play as big of a role such as Tony, the monster with 1,642 teeth, the big monster Eleanor, and Hector who is just plan weird. The plot of the story consists of Leonardo not being able to scare anyone. After much research and training, he finds the biggest scaredy-cat in the whole world, but still fails to really scare him. Leonardo realizes that instead of being a terrible monster, he could be a wonderful friend (Willems). The theme of the story tells that we don’t all have to be what others want us to be. It’s okay to be different! Although the style of children books are meant to be read aloud, children would be able to help with many of the words in this book. The style helps create the humorous and lighthearted mood while still keeping readers on their toes to see if Leonardo ever can scare someone (Galda 112).
The quality of Leonardo, the Terrible Monster is perfect for the audience it was written for. While the language of the book tells the story, the author chose interesting words with interesting placement to help keep the readers intrigued. The illustrations are simple, but very accurate for the story. They establish mood and give us a better understanding of feelings (Galda 110).
I plan on becoming an elementary teacher, so I will focus my application on a lesson plan idea. I will discuss activities to complete before and after reading the book. Before reading the book, I would have my class think about a friend who is very special to them, and draw a picture of them on a piece of paper. They would need to think of details about their friend such as hair color, the clothes they wear, if they’re tall or short, and what activities they like doing. After this activity, I would talk about what peer pressure means. With the help of the students, we will make a list of positive and negative peer pressure and discuss how negative peer pressure can hurt other people. Throughout the story, hopefully the students will catch on to the peer pressure that Leonardo was feeling. After reading the story, I would have the students create a chart about how Leonardo was in the beginning, how Leonardo was in the end, and hoe Leonardo stayed the same. Some questions I could ask them are: How did Leonardo act in the beginning, Why did Leonardo act that way, How did Leonardo act in the end, What happened to Leonardo to make him change his behavior, What happened when Leonardo made his big decision. If the school allows, we could also watch the movie (or read the book) Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. This would allow the students to create connections between the two books and take about the similarities and differences between Leonardo and the monsters, as well as the similarities and differences between Sam and Max.
Galda, Lee, et al. Literature and the Child. 9th ed., Cengage Learning, 2017.
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. Braille Superstore, 2015.
Willems, Mo. Leonardo the terrible monster. Walker Books Ltd, 2008.