Mock me if you will, but I have to say I’m actually impressed with LEGO Monster Fighters: Watch Out, Monsters About! by Simon Beecroft. It’s the perfect urban fantasy for children. It has all the requisites to be an urban fantasy – vampires, werewolves, zombies all in an urban fantasy world – and appealing to a much younger crowd as well.
Seeking all monster fighters! Do you dare to approach the vampire’s spooky castle, enter the mad scientist’s crazed laboratory, or ride the terrifying ghost train? Learn about the skills you need to be a monster fighter — and how to live to tell the tale in this new LEGO® Monster Fighters reader!
Right away I could see the typical UF cast of misfit characters who are there to not only engage, but bring out the unique personality that fantasy allows for. Check out this group yourself and you’ll see what I mean:
- Ann Lee – the kickass heroine – is a magician and monster-basher who is ready for anything. She can pilot any flying vehicle and is an expert shot with her crossbow. (She even uses spare ammo as a hair accessory!)
- Dr. Rodney Rathbone – the experienced fighter – Monster fighting is in my blood. I’ll never forget my first scrap with a vampire – I lost my leg (now a mechanical replacement).
- Major Quinton Steele – the expert – is a big-game hunter with a thirst for exotic prey. He is an expert in every kind of hunting, tracking, and combat skill.
- Frank Rock – the bad boy – goes into battle with all his flick-firing missiles blazing. Frank’s only rules in combat are: Break all the rules and walk away from explosions without looking back at them!
- Jack McHammer – the angry vigilante – lost his right arm in a fight with a monster years ago, and he’s still angry about it. He may be a plastic hotshot with the might of ten minifigures, but he’s not subtle!
It’s also targeting, in my opinion, an untapped age group that typically doesn’t read about these monsters, all while trying to convert even more young readers over to the fantasy side. As a DK Reader, the text is simple enough that any new reader shouldn’t have too many problems with it, but still expose elementary kids to words they might not see or use this early – i.e. archenemy, stake, supernatural. Think of it this way, how many 5-8 year olds are pysched to read about werewolves and vampires in a non-horror setting? Yes, the monsters are coming to get you, but it’s not like we’re talking about Freddie or Jason. These won’t keep children up at night.
I have to be honest, I read the genre and love seeing the movies, but they’re not ones I let the Monkey watch. He would be bored with Twilight, but Blade, Dracula 2000 or Vampire Diaries? Yeah, I don’t think so. Maybe I’ve been blinded to it, but I just don’t see that many books out there for this age group that have a fantasy setting, especially one with vampires and zombies and science experiments.
For those readers who are not quite there yet, as an adult who reads UF, I actually enjoyed the glimpses into the various stories the Monster Fighter series has. The Swamp Creature, The Ghost Train, Crazy Scientist & His Monster and Vampyre Castle all have plots that could easily be a paranormal YA, if not an adult UF, but are told on a much simpler scale.
Despite our best efforts, that dastardly Lord Vampyre has somehow got hold of all six Moonstones! As the stars align in the night sky, Lord Vampyre and his Vampyre Bride prepare to unite the Moonstones and use their power to eclipse the Sun.
I drew my sword and we fought… How would that sentence not inspire any child into envisioning an epic battle between a vampire and its hunter? Being able to escape into an imaginary world is what every kid does; so why not encourage them to battle it out with a vampire or werewolf rather than some army dude bent on world domination? Fantasy is the epitome of the imagination, and other than Marvel and DC, where else can a child find this kind of action without letting it affect their perception of every day life?
So I have to say, after reading Watch Out, Monsters About! by Simon Beecroft, I’m really impressed with how Lego is introducing the idea of urban fantasy, and it’s elements, to a younger crowd. And they’re not doing it in a way that contradicts what everyone has been brought up with. These monsters have always been monsters – whether charming or not. They weren’t love interests (without manipulation). They are villains in the true sense – neither evil or good, just selfish and apathetic to anyone but themselves.
I like the idea of showing the Monkey the type of characters I enjoy reading about in a way he can understand, and quite possibly enjoy as well. So as a UF reader, if you’re a parent and you’re looking for beginner reader friendly UF, I would definitely check out the LEGO Monster Fighters series. They are definitely working the genre in a way I can get behind. As of right now, there is only one other book out – Meet the Monsters – but I’m hoping more will follow soon. Plus Watch Out, Monsters About! kind of makes me want to run to the store tonight and get one of the Lego sets. I mean seriously, who reading this wouldn’t want the Zombies or the Vampyre Hearse sitting on their desk/bookshelf?