Leo loves scary movies (he has posters of them on his bedroom walls), but in real life he’s terrified of the monster who lives under his bed. One fateful middle of the night, he decides to be brave and go to the bathroom, despite his worries that the monster might grab his ankles. In fact, he goes a step further, and asks the monster to come out from under the bed so they can have a chat. The monster, though timid, obliges and mentions that he doesn’t have a name. Leo calls him Fred, and a friendship is born.
There are lessons tucked in amid the fun – and they are delivered in a kid-friendly way. These include the idea that confronting a problem head-on is often a good plan; that naming a fear can make it less scary; and that monsters can be afraid of things, too — in this case bugs and meeting new people.
For this early-readers series debut, award-winning children’s author Linda Bailey and Vancouver-born illustrator Colin Jack have whipped up five engaging, funny, and non-intimidating short chapters. But Under-the-Bed Fred also plays younger: my four-year-old giggled at the title before we even started reading. Jack’s illustrations, with their retro ’50s look, are a blast — which makes sense, since he also works as a story artist at DreamWorks Animation. He adds a bit of cheekiness throughout, including a juice carton with “It’s grape tasting” written on the side.
A sole annoyance with Under-the-Bed Fred is the way Fred throws around the phrase, “It’s my job.” As in, “I have to scare you. It’s my job,” which he offers as an apology of sorts. Wouldn’t it be great if Fred took the high road, broke free of his monster expectations and went on strike? But maybe Bailey is saving that for the next instalment in the series.