[spooky review + giveaway] Monster School by Kate Coombs and Lee Gatlin

Twilight’s here.
The death bell rings.
Everyone knows what
the death bell brings . . .

It’s time for class. You’re in the place
where goblins wail and zombies drool.


Welcome, you’re just in time.

Monster School is in session — come right in and meet the gang!

These just might be the scariest, spookiest students ever — a class where nobody blinks twice about the odd hairy eyeball on the floor or having a teacher who’s a screaming banshee.

Strangely enough, when you read about them, these spirited scholars seem to feel freakishly familiar. 🙂

In her newest children’s book Monster School (Chronicle Books, 2018), poetry wizard Kate Coombs has conjured up 18 fangtastic poems just perfect for some Halloweenish fun. Illustrated by Georgia cartoonist Lee Gatlin (who professes to love drawing monsters most of all), this cauldron of creepiness will cast you under its spell and tickle your skeletal funny bone.

Written in a variety of poetic forms, the mostly rhyming poems introduce us to some very interesting pupils, two weird teachers, and one voracious class pet.

Take “Fernanda Kabul” (please) — she has a way of instilling dread at the mere mention of her name. Part brat, part bully, and a vengeful liar, this “terrible, heartless” dressed-all-in-black “princess of hex” thrives on terrorizing her classmates:

One time Josh was laughing at something I said
and she thought he was laughing at her.
By the time she was finished he wasn’t a kid:
He was three inches long. He was covered with fur.

Or what about the girl who has snakes for hair — venomous ones at that? No curling irons when styling, only gentle strokes to train them lest you turn to stone. And I do like the friendly girl from “Monster Mash” (complete with claws and floating purple hair), who boasts a multicultural lineage that includes trolls, boggarts, witches, giants, and elves.

Readers will enjoy seeing parts of themselves or recognizing kids they know in the featured personality types: the lonely gargoyle who feels misunderstood, the proud and regal mummy who daydreams about doing ordinary things, the computer wiz who’s stumped by word problems, or the poor ghost girl who can’t seem to scare anyone.

Odd though the students may be, school is still school: even monsters grumble about homework (if you’re a vampire, why worry about a deadline?). And of course one can always chew the fat about cafeteria food, or delight in a quick game of “Graveyard Ball” (with tombstones as bases and the grim reaper as coach).

One can tell debut artist Lee Gatlin had a ball drawing all the weirdos in the poems (his bulging eyeballs are a standout). Kids will enjoy poring over the peculiar, eerie details in every spread, from wispy, floating ghosts to slithering snakes to detached zombie body parts. Throughout, his evocative scenes effectively capture the dark, “creatures of the night” atmosphere of the book, making readers wish that for just one evening, they, too, could attend this school to cavort with a monster or two.

And who do the monsters think is the oddest one of all? A “New Kid” who calls himself “Mr. Ordinary.” No pointy horns, sharp fangs, or weird protrusions — just a kid who wears t-shirts and jeans, plays baseball and earns average grades. But just wait till the moon is full . . . 🙂


And now, class, take your seats and pay attention to the following poems. Toadstool buns or french-fried brains, anyone?



Stevie always loses things.
Today he lost his arm.
He lost his mittens yesterday
and his anti-lose-things charm.

Stevie lost his kneecap.
Stevie lost his nose.
He lost his homework, lost his snack,
and now he’s lost his toes.

“Come on,” calls Mrs. Appleby.
“Everyone help look!”
Now Stevie’s lost an eyeball
and his backpack and a book.

The backpack’s in the corner.
The book’s beneath a desk.
We find the homework and the toes
but give up on the rest.




Everything tastes pretty good:
cricket quiche and french-fried brain,
old shoe stew and ankle cake,
spider biscuits, auk chow mein.

Monday’s always frog surprise.
Tuesday’s dragon wings on toast.
Wednesday’s alligator soup —
but we like Friday food the most.

Thursday we eat toadstool buns
or cookies made from glue.
But Friday’s what we’re waiting for —
we’ll save a slice for you.

Oh, pickled
donkey tails
are nice,
and curried
But we
can’t wait till Friday night —
come eat with us
and see!




I can roll it, I can thump it.
I can bop it, I can bump it.
Highin’, lowin’ like a basketball
that’s goin’ for the swish,
my astoundin’ round container
holdin’ lots of thoughtful squish.
Think it’s funny? Think again —
I can wow you with my dread.
Bam! Zam! Kapowie!
Beware my pumpkin head!


written by Kate Coombs
illustrated by Lee Gatlin
published by Chronicle Books, August 2018
Poetry for Children 8+, 40 pp.



We are happy to offer a signed copy (by Kate) of MONSTER SCHOOL for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) October 17, 2018. You may also enter by sending an email with MONSTER SCHOOL in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Good Luck!


The lovely and talented Laura Purdie Salas is hosting the Roundup at Writing the World for Kids. Be sure to zip on over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Happy Weekend!

*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2018 Kate Coombs, illustrations © 2018 Lee Gatlin, published by Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.

**This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a tiny referral fee at no cost to you. Thanks for your support!

***Copyright © 2018 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

47 thoughts on “[spooky review + giveaway] Monster School by Kate Coombs and Lee Gatlin

  1. I would just love to win this beautifully illustrated book. It is cute and creepy at the same time. Can’t say I would give it to a child. Instead, I would keep it for myself. I would share it though. I am only seventy six years young and love to collect children’s books.


  2. What a truly adorable and of course, spooky, book. I love the illustrations, and my favorite poem is Cafeteria Food. My dad actually cooked breaded and fried sheep brains. Yuck. So, he would have probably adored all the foods mentioned!! Ha ha!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, this looks adorable. Reminds me of Joann Sfar’s LITTLE VAMPIRE GOES TO SCHOOL, which was so, so cute I hated to part with it when one day An Actual Child wanted it.

    One wishes school were quite this… entertaining.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, this book is great! I can only imagine how fun the writing and illustrating were. The giggles and gawfaws as the stanzas fell into place. Why is it that we love the weird and disgusting?! This post pairs perfectly with Michelle’s TLD post. Great minds? Probably!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. the book has me shuddering and giggling at the same time! though i do so want to know what is on the Friday menu at the cafeteria though perhaps the idea is let my imagination just go wild on what it might be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was wondering the same thing. Spooky humor for kids has to be just right — a little gross but not too scary. Kate has nailed it. 🙂


  6. Ooooh…I can just picture reading this to my 7 year old grandson! Yeah, sign me up! Great review. I may have to buy it anyway.
    Trouble logging in as I used to…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a delightfully creepy concoction! I’m particularly fond of Stevie the Loser and I can easily imagine my fourth graders creating their own engagingly disgusting additions to the cafeteria menu. Thanks for sharing and congrats to Kate on her newest book!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, I evidently forgot to actually LEAVE a comment a couple of days ago – monster mischief! Congrats to Kate and all – and cheers to Mr. C. for being brave enough to get close to some of those perfectly spooky illlustrations! ;0)

    Liked by 1 person

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