As a parent and horror fan, I feel it’s my duty to pass along traditions, knowledge, toys, and a general love for the spooky soaked world to my kids: Milo (6) and Ash (4). And so far, so good.
Allow me to ramble for a moment.
Children are basically little monsters themselves. They’re loud, covered in goo (snot, sweat, and unidentifiable liquids), oftentimes creepy in stares and words, and can cause massive destruction in a short amount of time.
Through films, books, and other ghostly avenues, we attempt to harness their monster power (energy) to try and focus it on what we know – the nostalgia laden memories of our own kiddie days. Fortunately for us, our oldest has taken to the good stuff. The Monster Squad. Godzilla. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He-Man. Faerie Tale Theatre. Little Monsters. To name a few.
Let’s face it. We’re set on TV and film. As a solid physical media family, our kids will be able to experience a mock video store for years to come. Compared to my Movie Scene upbringing, that’s the next best thing.
Toys? We got it covered. From my husband’s old (and new) G.I. Joes to horror con vendors (I’m looking at you, Toxic Crusaders figures), we literally have something for everyone (I’m looking at you, 90210 dolls).
And now books. They’re not quite old enough for the Scary Stories series, though I still have my original copies (albeit tattered and bent to hell). And thanks to a Twitter pal, we’ve acquired a massive Goosebumps collection. Just as soon as Milo outgrows his fairly serious Slappy phobia, we’re good to re-energize that reading project. Again, horror con vendors can provide both old and new kiddie books (with some amazing art).
And then sometimes a book falls into your metaphorical lap (ahem, your Twitter inbox). We don’t take much to reviewing or screening a bunch of stuff these days because of time (cough, cough, kids). That being said, when author Jeff Roland sends you the following message, you’ve got my interest: “I created the book for monster fiends like us who are looking to introduce their little ones to all things classic monsters.”
And here we have Maury the Miserable Vampire, written by Jeff Roland and illustrated by Adamah VanArsdale.
“Maury was a grumpy vampire who never laughed, never smiled and never went outside. When his only friend, Barry the Bat, suddenly disappears from the castle, Maury must summon the courage to set out into the world to find him. Along the way, Maury meets friendly, funny monsters from across the globe and learns about other cultures, teamwork, and most importantly, the value of friendship.”
(Spoiler: it’s as adorable as it sounds.)
When I first set out to seriously read this little book, I did what only a good parent would do: I read it aloud to my 6-year-old. After all, he’s the real critic here.
Maury is fairly lengthy (for a children’s book), but the amount of text varies from page to page.
The illustrations are brightly colored without texture – akin to a cartoon you’d see on Nick Jr. Maury himself is a bulbous little Nosferatu (or Mr. Barlow) youngster, complete with pale blue skin and batty socks. Barry the Bat is a happy purple – because he’s a happy little critter (despite his servitude to Maury).
As mentioned in the synopsis, when Barry goes missing, Maury reluctantly goes on a trek all over the world. In his travels, we get a nice sampling of monster creatures in unexpected ways, each providing an important life lesson to Maury.
In my son’s favorite part of the book, Maury comes across a pack of gleeful, howling werewolves. Our little vampire is frightened because they look different. But, as you can guess, Maury’s anxiety is quickly squashed because “being different isn’t scary. It’s cool!” (See, parents, lessons.)
After adventures are had and friends are made, a changed-for-the-better Maury heads home to his lonely castle, sadly sans Barry the Bat. But I bet you can predict that he won’t be alone for long.
(Side note: the real hero of the story is a teeny black widow spider who appears on nearly every page of the book!)
Though we cling to the creatures and materials of yesteryear so that we may inject our brood’s brains with our own wistfulness, just remember this: there are a ton of folks like us out there creating new stories to tell and new pathways to walk into the wonderful world of horror.
And we got one here. Maury the Miserable Vampire is kid-approved and makes for an ideal late-night tale to tell your own little ghouls and goblins. Candy corn and cuddles are recommended.
You can pick up Maury the Miserable Vampire from the book’s website (and get it signed!). It is also available on Amazon.