Today is my birthday, and what better present could I get than a picture from my little boy? He then asked me to write a story about the picture, and I ask you, who could say no?
Jensen Foster, age 6
Crayon, pencil, and paper
Happy Birthday, Monster!
Written by Cate Foster
Illustrated by Jensen Foster
Jack was worried. More worried than an almost-ten-year-old boy should be. Yesterday had been Bobby’s birthday, and it hadn’t gone well. It had not been a happy day for Bobby. Not happy at all.
Even though birthdays are usually festive and cheerful occasions—filled with parties and balloons, presents and cake—that had not happened for Bobby. It was supposed to, though. There was supposed to be a party, with all of Bobby’s friends coming to celebrate and bring presents. Bobby’s mother had made a special birthday cake (chocolate, Bobby’s favourite) and his father had tied balloons all around (green and purple, Bobby’s favourite colours).
Everything was set for an enjoyable and entertaining party. All of Bobby’s friends had arrived; the candles were in the cake ready to light.
But then the Birthday Monster arrived and ruined everything. He smashed all the presents. He popped all the balloons. And he ate the birthday cake, candles and all. After that, he ran away, leaving a mess and an empty cake platter.
Bobby had been devastated. And now that it was almost Jack’s birthday, he was worried that the monster would come and ruin his birthday. He was trying to figure out how to keep the Birthday Monster away, but so far he wasn’t having any luck thinking of a brilliant idea.
Walking helped him think, so Jack decided to go for a walk in the woods behind his house. But he was so preoccupied, so worried about the Birthday Monster ruining his birthday, that he wasn’t really paying attention to where he was going. Soon he was lost.
Jack was a clever boy, so he didn’t panic when he realised that he was lost and didn’t know how to get back home. Frankly, he was still more concerned about figuring out how to keep the monster away during his birthday party tomorrow.
He decided that he needed to look around, get his bearings, and discover any landmarks in the vicinity. At first, all Jack could see were trees. And sky. And more trees. But then he could just make out a little house through the trees. Since he could not locate any other landmarks or distinguishing features, he chose to head toward the house.
It didn’t take him long to reach the house. He knocked on the door, hoping to ask whoever lived there if he could use a phone. Jack was deciding on what he would say when the door opened. And suddenly he forgot why he needed to borrow a phone. He forgot why he was there. He forgot his name. He was too scared to remember anything.
‘Can I help you?’ asked the Birthday Monster, standing in the doorway. He looked way too big to fit comfortably in this little house.
‘Um, can I—. Uh, I mean, do you have—,’ Jack started, but he was so nervous he couldn’t finish his sentences.
The monster was fairly clever himself. ‘Are you lost?’ he asked.
‘Oh, um, yeah. I mean, yes, I am,’ said Jack, finally remembering how to form proper sentences. ‘Do you, maybe, have a phone that I could borrow?’
The Birthday Monster shook his head. ‘No, I don’t. I never have anyone to call. Sorry. But if you follow this path, it will take back into town.’
‘Really?’ Jack was excited about being able to find his way back home. ‘Thank you.’
He turned to go, ready to get out of the forest and away from this monster who had ruined Bobby’s birthday. But he’d only taken a few steps when he turned back around. The Birthday Monster was still standing in the doorway, watching him.
‘Do you need something else?’ asked the monster.
‘Well, actually, I did have a question for you. Two questions, really.’
‘Ask away,’ said the monster. ‘I like answering questions.’
‘I was wondering why you ruin our birthday parties. You came yesterday and spoiled Bobby’s party,’ said Jack, getting the words out in a rush before he lost his nerve. ‘And I was also wondering if you would like to come to my birthday party. It’s tomorrow.’ Jack waited, holding his breath, for the monster’s answer. Please, he thought, oh, please don’t be mad.
The Birthday Monster didn’t say anything. He just looked at Jack, who shifted his weight from foot to foot. Having a big, hairy monster stare at you does not, generally speaking, put a young boy at ease. Finally, after what seemed like an incredibly long time to Jack, the monster spoke.
‘You want me to come to your party?’
‘Well, sure. I mean, only if you want to,’ said Jack, trying to appease the monster in case he’d inadvertently offended him. ‘You don’t have to. I just thought it might be, well, fun?’ Jack hadn’t meant to turn that into a question, but couldn’t help himself.
‘Nobody has ever invited me to a birthday party before. They seem like a lot of fun. I would enjoy it very much. I will try hard not to ruin anything.’
‘Good,’ said Jack. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow. Thank you for telling me how to find my way home.’
Jack set off down the path. It wasn’t long before he saw the town come into view. He made it home just in time for dinner.
The next day, as the time for his party neared, Jack started getting a little nervous. What if the monster ruined the party? What if he smashed the presents? And worst of all, what if he ate the birthday cake? Jack started to think that maybe he’d made a mistake inviting the monster.
But then he remembered how happy the monster had been, and how surprised he seemed when Jack invited him. So, Jack thought, I think everything will turn out just fine.
And that’s exactly what happened. At first the other kids were a little scared when the Birthday Monster showed up to Jack’s party. But soon they relaxed. The monster explained that he hadn’t meant to smash any birthday presents, but when all the children at Bobby’s party started screaming, he got scared.
‘And when I get scared,’ he said, ‘I get clumsy. It was an accident.’ He went on to explain that popping the balloons was an accident as well. ‘No matter how often I trim my claws, they grow back so fast. And they’re so sharp. I just wanted to look at the balloons. They were so pretty.’
‘What about the cake?’ asked the children. ‘Why did you eat all the birthday cake?’
The monster looked a little sheepish, and he hesitated a moment before responding. ‘I’d never had birthday cake before. I was just going to have a taste, I promise. But it was so good. I couldn’t stop. I’m sorry.’
‘In that case,’ said Jack, ‘you are going to get the biggest piece of birthday cake today. All for you. But you have to share, okay?’
‘Oh, thank you,’ said the Birthday Monster. ‘I like sharing.’
‘Hooray!’ shouted the children. And they sang and danced and played with the monster, and invited him to all their birthday parties after that.
And the monster decided that chocolate birthday cake was his favourite flavour.