Monster Musical Chairs | A Wolfe Stew Review


by Stuart J Murphy Illustrated by Scott Nash Reviewed by Wolfe Stew

Here, at Wolfe Stew, we love sharing books that inspire learning.  This is one of them!  If you’re a leader of older learners, please don’t discount this book because of its appearance.  There is still opportunity for learning here, I promise!  Remember, we indicate potential spoilers as asterisks surrounding the header.

Target Audience

If you like predictable books with a beat, repetition and relatable characters, Monster Musical Chairs answers that call.  You’ll be dancing through the pages with the monsters and engage in learning to boot! 

While this book specifically targets readers preparing to learn subtraction, we think learners of every kind can connect to this book.  If cuddly monsters, entertaining littles, mentor writing or art interest you, check this one out!

We think this book would be appropriate to read aloud to learners around the ages of 3-6 with independent reading encouraged for ages 7-9.   Useful as a springboard into a multitude of learning opportunities or discussion topics for readers of all ages. 

Lexile Level: 410L (2nd Grade)

Learner/Leader Summaries

Who will sit last - a book with a beat.

Adult-targeted summary by Wolfe Stew


Motion lines and shadowing make Nash’s monsters really dance! You’ll find friendly monsters with simple, similar features, each distinctly unique, and often with common animal body parts.  The monsters’ effective mimicry of children’s emotions in similar situations showcase Scott Nash’s profound grasp of audience.


The band is on a moving platform and the monsters on or around chairs.  Taking the shadows and moving platform as clues, it appears to take place outside during the day. 

Main Characters

  1. Monster Kids – Energetic, emotional, rule-following, fun-loving, caring, sometimes troublemaking
  2. Band Leader – Rule enforcer, fast thinker, lively
  3. Band Members – Dedicated, entertaining, enthusiastic

Point of View

Mostly told in a third person objective point of view, with periodic, “you,” moments.  The use of "you" subtly invites the reader into the game.  Alternatively, “you,” moments may indicate times the band leader directly addresses the monsters.


Monster Kids v. Monster Kids:  Which one will win “Monster Musical Chairs”?

Band Leader v. Environment:  Will the band leader effectively entertain the monstrously chaotic kids?

Monster Kids v. Self: Can they remain calm even when they don’t win?



Following Rules

Good Sportsmanship

Our Favorites


The Mrs.:  Green lobster monster.  You get to go through the emotions of anger to celebration with him. The moment he loses, he gets this regretfully angry look on his face as he’s walking away.  You can tell he really wanted to win; so much so that he considers using his lobster claws to break a chair.  Upon restraining himself, he turns to cheering others on.

The Mr.:  The orange dinosaur monster.  It’s a dinosaur.  It’s orange.  It has a spike on its nose.  What more could you possibly want?


The Mrs.: “Stomp stomp, SNORT.  Shake Shimmy, SHOUT!  When the music stops, one monster is OUT!”

The Mr.: “Two monsters left.  One place to sit.  There’s just one winner – who’ll be it?”


The Mrs.: When every monster is happy at the end. 

The Mr.: When it’s down to two monsters and the suspense is intense. 

About the Author – Stuart J. Murphy

To say Murphy has a passion for educating kids using visuals would be an understatement.  Clearly, this is his life’s pursuit.  An advocate for visual learning, Murphy realized that kids connected to math when told as a story.  An idea sparked, grew into a flame of math readers, ignited a movement of math in literacy, which finally exploded on stage as a mathematical musical, The Main Street Kids Club.

Clearly, Monster Musical Chairs is only a small sampling of the math in literacy empire Murphy built.  MathStarts, the series Murphy birthed, consists of three levels totaling sixty-three books.

Arguably the best image in his journey, occurred amid school visits.  Upon these visits, Murphy sighted replicated book covers decorating hallway doors, student-made board games inspired by MathStart books, and lyrical performances of his works.  To encounter this level of honor as a children’s book author must be truly humbling; dreams do come true!

About the Artist – Scott Nash

Nash shares in the passion of inspiring kids during school visits, workshops and lectures.  His main message is to encourage kids to write and draw throughout their lives.  Too many people, he fears, allow creativity to fade as they age.  And his pursuit is in keeping creativity active, in kids and in adults. 

To foster creativity in adults, Nash helped establish the illustration department at Maine College of Art, now the largest department (Clinton, “Scott Nash: Artist”).  With Nash at the helm, these learners benefit greatly from his experience.

Nash is the illustrator of Flat Stanley and over FORTY MORE children’s books, but is also a writer.  Books he’s authored and illustrated include: Shrunken Treasures, The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate, and Tuff Fluff: The Case of Duckie’s Missing Brain.

In addition to illustrations, Nash creates logos, draws cartoons and sculpts products.  One logo of likely familiarity - the Nickelodeon logos. 

Nash’s message is a strong one: we all have within us the capacity toward creativity; never let it fade!


Academic Activities

  1. Language Usage – Onomatopoeia; alliteration; repetition; rhyme
  2. Reading Comprehension – Understanding character roles; predictions
  3. Writing – Write a related book teaching a different math concept (ratios, probability, etc.)
  4. Communication – Following directions
  5. Math – Subtracting one (with many more math suggested math activities and resources at the back of the book); Writing number sentences
  6. Art – Make your own inspired monster combining common animal parts and household objects; Colors and color usage; Creating expression
  7. Music – Instruments; Compose music to compliment repetitive text
  8. Movement – Musical chairs
  9. Social Emotional – Good sportsmanship

Websites to Explore

  1.  Math Start (Stuart J. Murphy’s Resources: books, activities, musical, and blog)
  2. Scott Nash Illustration (Discover illustrations, picture books, lectures and workshops)

Before You Go

We'd Love to know:
  1. If you've used this book with your learner, what activities did you do with it?
  2. If you haven't read it yet, what makes you want to read it?
We're looking forward to reading your thoughts!

At Your Service,
Raising Littles from Learners to Leaders

Interested in reading more of our thoughts on things?  Then you're looking for our Reviews page.  This is where we share all our thoughts on things and look forward to hearing your thoughts on things too.


  1. Clinton, Kelly. “Scott Nash: Artist.” Maine. The Magazine, July 2015, Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.
  2. Murphy, Stuart J. “Twenty years of MathStart: Visual Learning, Stories, Music and More!.” Stuart J. Murphy’s MathStart. Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.
  3. “Scott Nash.” Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.


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