Monster and Chips: fun, gross-out chapter books

Monster and Chips is a compulsively readable, delightfully illustrated series of novels for young readers that are full of good-natured gross-out humor and suspenseful scenarios. Joe stumbles into Fuzzby Bixington's Monster Diner one day while running away from the school bully and is adopted as a general dogsbody and sous-chef. In volume one, Monster and Chips, Joe discovers all manner of monstrous culinary secrets that he and his friends -- Barry, a wisecracking, tentacled, four-eyed "cat"; and Twig, a young, sweet tree-monster -- use to help Fuzzby compete on Monsterchef, where he faces a villainous, cheating horror of a monster. In volume two, Night of the Living Bread, a series of short episodes culminate with Fuzzy, Joe and friends cooking the Pizza of Ultimate Darkness to feed the dread Night-Mayor at his secretive annual feast.

The illustrations in the books are a delight. The monsters are charming and distinctive and endlessly varied. A tribe of tiny pebble-like monsters called the Guzzelins get their own one-or-two panel strips at the bottom of many of the pages, providing color commentary on the action. Best of all are the daily special menus from Fuzzby's Diner, which feature amazingly gross dishes that are enormous fun to read aloud.

I read these to my daughter at bedtimes twice over, and she loved them. At five, she's not quite ready to read them to herself, but the words in the cartoons and daily specials boards welcomed her in and she took great pleasure in reading them. I think in a year or two she'd be delighted to read them over to herself.

These books are only published in the UK (you can buy them in the US as imports), which is a pity. There's some UK-specific stuff (chips instead of fries, for example) but nothing too esoteric -- and certainly nothing that an audience prepared to parse out the details of Monsterland should be stopped by.