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Monster Baby

By Dian Curtis Regan (Clarion; $16), Ages 4-8

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In Monster Baby (Clarion; $16), by Dian Curtis Regan, with illustrations by Doug Cushman, Olly is left as a baby on the farmhouse doorstep of Mr. and Mrs. Oliver. Olly may not look like other children, but his journey is a familiar one: foster adoption, schooling, learning to be a good friend, helping around the house. As in life, time flies as the Olivers grow as a family. That's the fun of this offbeat tale, since Olly accomplishes all this (including college!) in one short month.

In Olly we see our own kids. My three boys, adopted from Guatemala, can be monsters at times. They seem to grow out of new clothes before we can get them home from the store. Olly grows so rapidly in three days that he no longer fits into his father's clothes. Having seven-year-old twins, I fear "the phone call" from the principal. Olly's parents get called the first day of school. There are growing pains as Olly struggles to belong, but with support from his family and friends, he learns to value the things that set him apart.

On his one-month birthday, Olly's adoption is official, and everyone in the neighborhood--the school janitor, his classmates, the church congregation--celebrates together at a welcome-home BBQ. Differences or not, what is important is the loving family our kids have. The Olivers, too, are good at loving "the most beautiful baby in the world," as Mom so proudly declares.

My twins, James and Jason, saw the book as I was writing this. "Cool! A baby monster!" The verdict: "We loved the story. The pictures are good. We liked the pirate suit!" James exclaims, "I like when he started out as a baby and got bigger and bigger, and beat the other football team!" Jason shouts over him, "I like when he made the cannonball at the lake!"

In the end, Olly makes a new friend, who is mysterious, like him. As they celebrate their differences together, Monster Baby reminds us that every family is perfect the way it is. Unlike the Olivers though, we have plenty of time between "gotcha day" and college graduation. Now where did I leave that video camera?

Reviewed by JOE SHUMAN, who lives in southern Ohio, with his wife Jo, their boys, a beagle named Katy, and Fiona, a box turtle.

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