Board book ‘Monster ABC’ by brothers from Hazel Dell teaches nonscary alphabet

Friendly monsters cast their spell

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter

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H is for Halloween and D is for Day.

H.D. can also be for Hazel Dell — which is where the identical twins Kyle and Derek Sullivan grew up.

“We’ve been collaborating since we were very small. We were always making stories together,” said Kyle Sullivan.

That hasn’t changed, even though the brothers are now 34 years old and doing creative work in different cities. Kyle is a writer based in Seattle; Derek is an illustrator who lives in Portland. But in their hearts, Kyle said, the twins are still kids spinning tales in the neighborhood around Lake Shore Elementary School. When they invited friends and fans to help them launch their own publishing company via a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, they named the partnership Hazy Dell.

The Kickstarter campaign was a big success, and Hazy Dell’s first publication is out: a seasonal alphabet board book by the brothers that endeavors to teach the youngest children that monsters are nothing to be scared of.

“We really wanted to make sure that everything we do would be appealing to ourselves as 5-year-olds,” Kyle said.

But they also wanted to take pity on parents. When you’re at board-book level, it’s parents who are doing most of the actual reading, Kyle said, and he wanted to give them something clever and nonrepetitive to enjoy along with their kids.

Writing on two levels for two different audiences — plain and simple for children, subtly winking at parents — is a lot tougher than it seems, Kyle said. “You don’t want to create any barriers for children. But you also want to make sure parents are excited. That takes a lot of wordsmithing and different drafts.”

In the end, Kyle said, “Monster ABC” came out containing “a lot of hidden treats. But nothing scandalizing.”

No, not much. Other than noting that our local neighbor Sasquatch has no pants. And that hateful trolls just have to hate. (Tell me about it, says The Columbian’s web editor.) Or that Krampus, a figure from Germanic folklore who punishes bad children at Christmastime, has a permanent home on Santa’s naughty list.

But he can’t be all that bad. For one thing, he’s the toast of children’s book and art shows that the Sullivan brothers have attended recently, Kyle said. “He’s by far the most popular monster these days,” he said.

So, a snuggly, sleepy little Krampus will star in the Sull- ivans’ next board book, which will be another nonscary satire of a classic. “Goodnight Krampus” will be out in November. Kyle said “Goodnight Krampus” is a “direct spiritual follow-up” to “Monster ABC.”

Meanwhile, “Monster ABC” is out now and available in 37 stores, most of them here in the Pacific Northwest, Kyle said. Or, visit http://hazydellpress.com.