Review & Author Blog: Mini Monsters: Can I Play? / Caryl Hart

BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations

This week marks the publication of Mini Monsters: Can I Play? by Caryl Hart and Tony Neal, and today is our stop on the blog tour.

Read on for a review of Mini Monsters: Can I Play? and then head over to author Caryl's guest booklist featuring her 5 recommended children's books about friendship.

Book Title: Mini Monsters: Can I Play? (available here)

Author: Caryl Hart

Illustrator: Tony Neal

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's

Publication Date: June 2020

Most Suitable For: EYFS & KS1


At a pre-school for monsters, four friends - Scout, Sparkle, Arthur and Tiny - play together and navigate the dynamics of getting on and falling out. Arthur and Sparkle play at putting on a magic show, but when Scout really wants to join in, Sparkle says no. It’s her game and she gets to choose who plays and how the game goes. The result is a mixture of emotions - sadness, anger, expulsion and isolation - as well as a bit of shouting, sulking and snatching. After Sparkle finds herself all alone, she begins to realise that she may have to compromise and think more about the wishes of others in order to get her friends back together again.

This is the first book in a series that will undoubtedly appeal to young children. The bold, brightly coloured illustrations by Tony Neal draw readers into the pre-school setting, which is immediately familiar to the majority of small children. Our mini bookworms here at BooksForTopics HQ listened to the story with wide-eyed interest - engaged at first by the fun characters but quickly also finding a high level of interest in the relatable themes and enjoying the opportunity to sit back and watch the classroom squabbles gently unfold and follow through to a resolution.

The story invites the reader to observe the friendship issues without becoming preachy or moralistic. So many young children are keen observers of human behaviour, especially when it comes to their peers, and the gentle narrative gives space to consider how Sparkle’s behaviour pushes her friends away and leads to problems, while at the same time the story invites empathy with Sparkle’s desire to control her game as she is forced to realise that she will have to compromise on having her own way. Both of my children were able to relate to the positions of the four different monsters at different stages in the friendship dilemma and also enjoyed being in the seat of the observer, able to draw on personal experiences to comment on what was happening between the characters. Such relatability, coupled with the honest acknowledgment that friendships are tricky (even for monsters) but that solutions can be happily sought, is what will give this serires a broad appeal among the 3-6 age bracket.

A highly recommendable and super-fun new series that will surely become a favourite during EYFS and KS1 storytimes.

Guest Post

Click here to read Caryl Hart's guest booklist featuring 5 recommended children's books about friendship.


You can order Mini Monsters: Can I Play? online or from your local bookshop or library.

Many thanks to the publishers at Simon & Schuster for sending us a review copy and to Caryl for providing the guest post. Check out the other stops on the blog tour, too.


Where next? > Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub

> Browse our Topic Booklists

> View our printable year group booklists.

> See our Books of the Month.


Join our newsletter to find out about our brand new booklists, reviews and updates on new children's books.

Click here to sign up.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Pinterest

Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, BooksForTopics earns from qualifying purchases.  Click here to learn more.