Mon­ster Club

Dar­ren Aronof­sky and Ari Han­del; Ronald Kur­ni­awan, illus.

  • Review
By – October 31, 2022

A dose of mag­ic, a few quirky black-and-white draw­ings, a bit of New York his­to­ry, a dash of folk­lore, a reminder of the val­ue of friend­ship, and a brave exam­ple of stand­ing up to bul­lies — these are some of the many delights to be found in this hilar­i­ous mid­dle-grade nov­el by Dar­ren Aronof­sky and Ari Han­del. A packed, grip­ping tale, Mon­ster Club is great fun to read and imparts valu­able mes­sages along the way.

Eric, apt­ly nick­named Doo­dles” for his love of sketch­ing, is con­cerned that his par­ents’ mar­riage is com­ing to an end. To make mat­ters worse, his father’s amuse­ment park on Coney Island is decay­ing and seems to be near­ly unsal­vage­able. Eric is also deal­ing with a group of school bul­lies, and some of his close friends seem to be matur­ing and los­ing inter­est in the game of mon­sters that has nur­tured him for so long. When he dis­cov­ers that his sketch­es and the mon­ster char­ac­ters with whom he plays can be mag­i­cal­ly brought to life, he is both mys­ti­fied and thrilled. Excite­ment and cre­ativ­i­ty have won out over the dai­ly, bor­ing activ­i­ties to which Eric has grown accus­tomed. What’s more, the mon­sters pro­vide dis­trac­tion from his trou­bles at home and in school.

The back­sto­ry of the book fol­lows Eric’s Jew­ish great-grand­fa­ther, who under­went a stress­ful and uncer­tain voy­age to emi­grate out of Europe into the Unit­ed States — a past that pro­vides inspi­ra­tion and role mod­el­ing for Eric. Past and present meet when the mon­sters get out of con­trol. Since the police SWAT teams and fire depart­ment can­not han­dle the sit­u­a­tion, Eric and his cohort are going to need courage, inge­nu­ity, and clever think­ing to save one anoth­er as well as Coney Island. Will he and his friend­ly mon­sters win against the bul­lies and their destruc­tive mon­sters? And will win­ning help save his father’s amuse­ment park from the hands of the unscrupu­lous devel­op­ers who want to destroy the Coney Island parks?

Aronof­sky and Han­del offer read­ers excite­ment, sus­pense, humor, and a touch of his­to­ry in a sto­ry that is sure to be rel­ished. Some young read­ers may even want to pull out their mag­i­cal mark­ers and try some sketch­ing themselves.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions