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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Daniel is worried about something. He has butterflies in his stomach and he can’t eat or focus on anything. His parents reassure him that everything is going to be okay, that he can do this, but he’s not so sure. When bedtime comes, he climbs into bed and enters his favorite world of dreamland. Tonight, though, it’s a little different. His dreams introduce him to friendly monsters. The first monster he meets is Dex and he looks quite scary and definitely very different. But Dex instantly sets him straight and reassures Daniel that he’s friendly and that “You should never judge someone just because of how they look.” Dex takes Daniel on a journey to Monster Mountain. It’s a beautiful place. At Monster Mountain, Daniel meets a shy and timid monster who’s really just like him. Monster Shelley is a worrier too. Daniel reaches out to help her and in so doing, he helps himself. By encouraging Shelley that she’s not the failure she thinks she is, in spite of her fear keeping her from doing things and joining in the fun with the other monsters, Daniel realizes that even though he’s timid and shy too, he’s not a failure.
Leanne Brown’s early chapter book, Daniel’s Dreams: Monster Mountain, is an insightful and entertaining story for early readers. The protagonist, Daniel, shy and timid, will certainly appeal to young readers who are all struggling with their own sense of place and belonging. The plot develops through Daniel’s dreams as the author very cleverly inserts multiple words of wisdom: don’t judge others by how they look, life is full of challenges like big mountains to climb, and being afraid doesn’t mean you’re a failure. The reader isn’t told right away what Daniel’s fear is: that evolves as Daniel reaches out to help his new monster friend, Shelley, as she struggles with her own fears and insecurities. The characters are well developed and the setting of dreamland is an excellent choice to allow Daniel to step outside his shell and realize that he’s not alone in his nervous feelings. Beautifully told, with care and compassion. Loved the illustrations.