a little taste of Welcome to Monsterville by Laura Shovan and Michael Rothenberg

Feeling a little scared? How about sad or shy? Have you ever been surprised by a kind gesture or felt empowered by your dreams?

In Welcome to Monsterville (Apprentice House Press, 2023), Laura Shovan and Michael Rothenberg introduce us to sixteen fun and quirky monsters, each embodying a relatable human emotion or state of being.

The collection opens with this intriguing fellow:

Hello, children!
Please don't hide.
The gate is open.
Come inside.

We're glad you're here
in Monsterville.
Our tour today
is creature-filled.

Our residents
aren't ordinary.
They're friendly! Thoughtful!
Shy and scary.

They live with humans
side by side.
You want to meet them?
Come inside.

We soon sense our new monster friends are not only all around us, but within us. Have you ever stomped off to the green cave of anger? Want to be charmed by monsterflies, or revel in the pure joy of monster houses, who shiver and shake, kaboom and quake? 

Here’s a chance to consider, observe, and turn a feeling inside out via inventive personification, crackerjack wordplay, and imaginative art that makes the abstract visible. Here is validation and feeling understood. This book is an appealing reminder that poetry has the power to reveal as well as heal.

Michael and Laura

The backstory of this collection is interesting and poignant. On the eve of the pandemic, friends Laura and Michael (who sadly passed away last November) embarked on a ‘creative conversation’ after bonding over shared grief and confusion regarding their sons. Michael was unable to write for awhile, but found release and expression in art therapy.

He sent Laura a picture of a monster with six pink feet. She surprised him by sending a recording of the poem she’d written about a monster moving in next door. Delighted, he sent her a second drawing, and they continued this exchange of delving into human emotions via creative play as the pandemic raged on. 

The pink footed, blue-jean colored, green-bubble blowing monster that started it all.

Their joyful collaboration proved to be an effective outlet, a means of coping with the fears, worries, changes, and new normal COVID had thrust upon everyone. As Laura says in her Author’s Note, “It gave Michael and me a way to befriend the unexpected, to make art out of the monstrous unknown.”

What I especially appreciate about these poems is how my concept of “monsters” has changed. They don’t necessarily have to be negative and frightening creatures to be avoided. Instead, monsters can be fun and even beautiful, representing a wide range of feelings. This book is a great way to help kids understand and manage strong emotions instead of pushing them aside. A natural conversation starter, Welcome to Monsterville will inspire readers of all ages to draw pictures of or write their own monster poems. 

Now, here are three sample poems for your dining pleasure. More strawberry ice cream, please. Enjoy!


Moo! Black horns.
Moo! says the monster
guarding strawberry ice cream cones. Moo! Cherry milkshake.
Mmm. Smells good.
May I



Bubblegum Head
fell out of bed.

I couldn't believe
the rude things that he said.

         Flooey! Bagookie!
         Carrumple! Dipthingle!

         Stahboody! Narwinkle!

He was stuck to the rug
by his chewy pink curds,

          all sticky and icky
          and gobbledy-blicky,

          shouting and spouting,
          My hairdo is tricky!

I wanted to help.
I would have preferred

if he'd cried and Oh, my'd!
But his mouth opened wide . . . 

           Flooey! Bagookie!
         Carrumple! Dipthingle!

         Stahboody! Narwinkle!

The noise filled the room
like a flock of black birds.

My ears are still ringing
from Bubblegum's words.



One eye. Two eyes. 
Three eyes. Four. 
Eleven-eyed monster 
banging on my door.

Two hands. Ten claws. 
Four-toed feet. 
Eleven-eyed monster 
reaching for a treat.

Monster’s belly 
starts to grumble, 
so I share Dad’s 
apple crumble.

Four wings open, 
flutter, fly! 
Well-fed monster 
waves goodbye.


written by Laura Shovan
illustrated by Michael Rothenberg
published by Apprentice House Press/Loyola College, April 2023
Illustrated Poetry Collection for ages 4-10, 46 pp.

*On shelves April 25, available for pre-order now



We are pleased to announce that the lucky Alphabet Soup reader who’s won a brand new copy of PICK A PERFECT EGG by Patricia Toht and Jarvis is:


Congratulations, Linda!! We know you will love the book!!!

Thanks to everyone for your lovely comments on my interview with Patty. It’s a gorgeous book, so if you haven’t seen it yet, do check it out!


IT’S ALMOST APRIL (how is that possible?)!!

We’re just about a week away from National Poetry Month!! As before, I’ll be rounding up those of you who are doing special projects on your blogs.

If you’d like to be included, please email me at readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com with the following information:

  1. Your blog name and URL
  2. Brief description of your project
  3. Any badges/graphics if applicable

I’ll post the Roundup next Friday. Looking forward to seeing what you’ll be up to. Thanks!


The lovely and talented Rose Cappelli is hosting the Roundup at Imagine the Possibilities. Be sure to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up around the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend!

*Interior spreads text copyright © 2023 Laura Shovan, illustrations © 2023 Michael Rothenberg, published by Apprentice House. All rights reserved.

**Copyright © 2023 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

35 thoughts on “a little taste of Welcome to Monsterville by Laura Shovan and Michael Rothenberg

  1. Thank you this wonderful introduction to Monsterville, Jama, and the peek into how it came to be. I’m sure Laura and Michael’s collaboration will help anyone wondering about or working through the monsters in their lives. Very informative post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rose. I loved Jama’s observation about poetry’s power to heal and reveal. That was certainly true as Michael and I worked on this collaboration.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Welcome to Monsterville looks like such a treat! The Bubblegum Head poem especially sticks with me.
    I love your astute observation, Jama, “poetry has the power to reveal as well as heal”. The collaboration between Laura and Michael is an inspiration. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t know the backstory of how Laura and Michael came to create this, know-it-will-be-wonderful book, Jama, and love that it happened. Considering the monsters that seem to surround us, the ones we don’t want, it’s special to read of the others that will make us laugh. Thanks for this spectacular review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had so much fun inventing words for the Bubblegum Head poem, Linda. And Michael played along too, encouraging me to push the language to its silly max.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jama, thank you for featuring Welcome to Monsterville today. It is a thrill to see these poems heading out into the world, alongside Michael’s whimsical and strange illustrations. He would have loved seeing his monsters being shared by our creative Poetry Friday community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that although you were the primary poet and he the primary illustrator, both of you weighed in on each other’s work. Truly a free flowing collaboration and exchange of ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was. I’m grateful that Michael and I did this project together. He was a creative force!


  5. Jama, what a beautiful presentation about Welcome to Monsterville. I loved hearing the story of how Michael and Laura collaborated. I’m curious, did you say Michael sent a poem back to Laura? Did they collaborate more than just he doing the drawings and she doing the poetry?

    Flooey! Bagookie!
    Carrumple! Dipthingle!

    Stahboody! Narwinkle!

    Haha! I love these words of Bubblegum–and now they are ringing in my ears too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Denise. Our process was that Michael would send me a monster illustration (sometimes a sketch), and I would respond with the draft of a poem. From there, we would discuss colors he was thinking about, tweaks to the art — as well as the rhythm and phrasing of the poems. It was a true collaboration!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you for your question, Denise!! My error; I meant to say Michael sent her a second drawing and then Laura wrote another poem in response.


    1. Heidi, I’ve just started sharing this book in schools. The children’s monster doodles and poems are full of original thinking.


  6. Why am I not surprised that you picked three food-adjacent monsters for your preview?!? *wink* There is one serving of apple crisp still left in the pan on our counter. Hubby better hope the Eleven-Eyed Monster doesn’t beat him to it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Here is validation and feeling understood.”

    Beautiful. I’m eagerly awaiting my pre-ordered copy.
    So heartbreaking that Michael passed away — Laura, again, I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and kindred spirit.

    A beautiful post and introduction to the book, Jama!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Karen. Michael was such a creative force and a dear friend. Having this book that we made together is a tribute to him.


  8. Hooray! I love this book and this review is wonderful. Thank you, Jama. I want everyone to get a copy! The photo of Laura and Michael is sweet. I hate that life requires us to experience such loss…but boy, did these two point the way to coping and healing. We are lucky for that.


  9. I’ve been curious about this book – thank you, Jama, and Laura, for the preview! So sorry to learn about the loss of Michael, Laura. I hope this very special collaboration between the two of you provides some comfort.
    Kids will be eager to try their own monster/feelings/art combinations, I’m sure. Also, I think Narwinkle might be a fun monster name with his/her/their own book. ;0)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now I’m thinking about Narwinkle the monster. Or a book featuring Bubblegum Head. He has enough personality to star in his own story!


  10. Jama, thanks so much sharing the backstory of Laura and Michael’s collaboration and some sample poems from Welcome to Monsterville. I suspect the combination of quirky drawings and “crackerjack” wordplay will delight so many children, and adults, too!

    Liked by 1 person

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