Claudette, the intrepid heroine from Giants Beware! and Dragons Beware!, is back in this third installment in Aguirre’s Chronicles of Claudette series. Claudette’s town, Mont Petit Pierre, is hosting the illustrious Warrior Games, where talented children from several kingdoms compete in monster-fighting battles. Claudette is overjoyed at the prospect of fighting monsters, and contrives to get herself, her friend Marie, and her younger brother Gaston entered as contestants.
The Marquis, Marie’s father, changes the contest so that Marie won’t be threatened by actual monsters. The teams of kids from different kingdoms are judged by their butter-churning and weaving skills instead, which upsets Claudette and causes her to ignore Marie and Gaston as they try to tell her that the team from the Sea Kingdom has an evil plan. The Sea Queen plans to restore the evil wizard Grombach to power so she will be able to rule the world, and she’ll stop at nothing to achieve her goal…but she’s never gone up against Claudette and her friends!
The rich characterization and fun plot twists that made the other two books so enjoyable are present here as well. Claudette, as much as she steamrolls Marie and Gaston and expresses a somewhat disturbing enthusiasm for violence, still displays tender moments such as when she asks, “Can you see okay, Gaston?” as the children are watching the elaborate pageantry surrounding the arrival of the other kingdoms’ contestants. Marie, so focused on her future career as a princess earlier in the series, is now reluctant to leave her friends to attend finishing school. And Gaston’s magical powers help Claudette defeat a formidable enemy, despite his assertion that “I don’t condone or glorify violence.”
The dialogue is clever and enjoyable, and always adds to characterization while advancing the plot. For example, during a truffle-hunting challenge, one of the kids from the Swamp Kingdom, reaching for a beehive, says, “I betcha we’ll find the truffles in here. Just gotta shake it…” while his teammate says, “He’s so smart. And so princely.” During a milking contest, Thunk from the Sea Kingdom yells at the cow, “Hurry up, land manatee!” Marie, always one for flowery speech, says (as a monster is threatening to eat her), “Now might be a good time to discuss the advantage of embracing a vegetarian lifestyle.”
The artwork is crisp, imaginative, and packed with kid appeal. Characters from each kingdom have their own color palette for the clothes they wear, making each group distinctive despite the large number of them. Action sequences convey quick movements without becoming disordered or confusing, and facial expressions are consistently spot-on. All that, plus a simple, intuitive panel layout, makes the story easy to follow and very kid-friendly.
Kids ages 8-12 (or even younger, if they can handle the vocabulary) who enjoy magic, adventure, and funny dialogue will love this series. Readers who like the Rutabaga the Adventure Chef books by Eric Colossal will especially want to pick this up.
Monsters Beware!, vol. 3
by Jorge Aguirre
Art by Rafael Rosado
First Second, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12