Release the Beast
Book review by Trevor Agnew
Release the Beast (2014) Romy Sai Zúnde, ill. Cinzah Merkins (2014) Beat Books [Beatnik Publishing, Auckland], 30 pages, hardback. ISBN ISBN 978 0 9922648 7 9
“When I get mad, the beast boils in my bones. He stomps in my feet and roars in my mouth.”
The beast in this quirky picture book is the rage of a small boy. When angry, he turns into a sharp-toothed monster. The monster smashes all the toys and even eats his irritating baby brother, Noah. The monster is unleashed on Father and fires him to the moon. When Mother refuses to make jam sandwiches, the beast tosses her to the top of a pear tree. “Then I felt a little bit better.”
This personification of anger – turning it into a fantasy monster – may be somewhat unsettling but it does enable the issue to be discussed. At the end of the story, Mummy tells the boy about her own beast and how she imagines it dealing with Daddy and Noah. Emotions shared and explained, the story ends as the boy (and his beast) receive a big bedtime cuddle – anger resolved.
It is unfortunate that the story is set entirely in capitals: “THAT’S ONE CUDDLE FOR YOU AND ONE FOR YOUR BEAST.” This makes difficulties for young readers.
Auckland artist Cinzah Merkins has provided dramatic and imaginative illustrations, which reflect the strong emotions released in the story but also capture the tranquillity of “feeling better.”