Picture Book Spotlight: Sulwe and Smarter Than a Monster

Posted September 20, 2019 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Reviews / 14 Comments

Today I’ve got two soon-to-be-released picture books under the spotlight. Check out these two adorable reads!

Picture Book Spotlight: Sulwe and Smarter Than a MonsterSulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
Illustrator: Vashti Harrison
on October 15, 2019
Genres: Picture Book, Contemporary Fantasy
Pages: 48
Source: The Publisher
My rating:
5 Stars

From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.


This book is stunning in just about every way imaginable. The story follows little Sulwe, who struggles to see her own beauty because of the darkness of her skin. Sulwe wishes she could look more like her parents, more like her sister, more like the other boys and girls at her school. Like most children, she doesn’t want to feel different—and her dark skin doesn’t make her feel special or unique, no matter what her mother might tell her. It takes a beautiful fable about day and night to make her see how she brings beauty to the world. As a reader, your heart goes out to Sulwe, and it soars with hers as she discovers her true worth.

The depth and detail of every illustration in this book is incredible. I’m amazed at how well Vashti Harrison was able to use such a lush and extensive palette when many of the images are (necessarily) dark; in fact, the darker images were my favorites—I so appreciated the subtlety of the details. The illustrations of Sulwe’s trip into the stars and the fable of day and night truly took my breath away.

This story is both important and utterly beautiful; what a wonderful combination!!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

Picture Book Spotlight: Sulwe and Smarter Than a MonsterSmarter Than a Monster: A Survival Guide by Brandon Mull
Illustrator: Mike Walton
Published by Shadow Mountain on October 1, 2019
Genres: Picture Book, Contemporary Fantasy
Pages: 32
Source: The Publisher
My rating:
4.5 Stars

No monster wants you to read this book. The more you know about monsters, the more you will know how to defeat them.

Little kids have big fears, which they often imagine to be scary creatures, like monsters. But this book helps explain how knowing "Monster Facts" can help kids outwit them.
Want to avoid monsters?

Fact: Monsters love dirt and grime, so when faced with two kids, the monster will choose the dirty one every time.

And if toys and clothes are all over the floor, you may get ambushed by a mess-loving monster.

Survival Tip: Take baths and keep your room clean.

Smarter Than a Monster will arm young readers with practical advice in this innovative and imaginative parenting tool that teaches common sense and positive and healthy habits.


This tongue-in-cheek bedtime story will have parents trying not to bust out laughing as they describe to their kids all the surefire ways to avoid monsters. Here’s a short list of examples: All the dangerous monsters hang out under Mom & Dad’s bed, so you’ll want to stay in your own. Messy kids (and rooms) are monster attractors. Kids who brush their teeth usually survive to be teenagers (it was the “usually” that really got me on this one—I just had to laugh at that confident reassurance). Basically, Mull gives kids a whole bunch of hilarious advice that will make us parents chuckle while reinforcing some good habits in our kiddos.

Okay, so there’s a teensy part of me that thinks this book could be used nefariously in the wrong hands—I mean, if your little one is truly afraid of monsters, I suppose this could backfire and instead of instilling good habits, you could just end up with a kid who’s terrified every time they get a little dirty. But it’s no different than something like an Elf on a Shelf that’s supposed to be watching to make sure little Johnny’s being good, right? It’s all in lighthearted fun.

The whimsical illustrations reinforce that tone of lighthearted fun—after all, the monsters in the book all look more cute and cuddly than terrifying. With bright colors and a comical style, the illustrations bring Mull’s hilarity to life!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

That’s it for now! Have you read these? What did you think?


14 responses to “Picture Book Spotlight: Sulwe and Smarter Than a Monster

  1. WOW! Sulwe is stunning!! I love that page where she’s compared to her parents and sibling!! DNA is so fascinating but try explaining that to a kid. I love that this book tackles such tough topics and can be applicable to any race actually. I’ll need to check it out for sure. Thanks for sharing Nicole ❤️

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