During the middle 1970s, when I was in either the fourth or fifth grade, I had a teacher (both years, which is why I can't be sure) who routinely read stories to our class during the afternoon.

She read us one, which I believe was a picture-style children's book, not a full novel-length work, and which has bits and pieces stuck in my memory ever since. Hence, my request for help.

The book would have been read to me somewhere between 1974 and 1976, but I don't know if it was a new book then or something that had been around a while. I have no recollection of the author's name at all, if I ever knew it.

I only remember bits, though, so bear with me please.

What I recall is:

  • There may have been a treehouse involved; either the MC(s) ran there, or it started there, but I think the former
  • The monster seemed amorphous, but I think I recall the mouth was described as wide and had rows upon rows of teeth (what self-respecting monster doesn't, after all?)
  • The monster shakes/"rumbles" the ground when it pursues the child(ren); this is how they know it's coming
  • I don't know if I remember accurately or not, but the monster MAY have been chewing through things during the pursuit

I know that isn't much, and I really apologize for not being able to do a better job, but it has been more than 40 years since the book was read to me.

I hope someone can locate the title and author. I'd actually like to see it again, though I believe that possibility slim.

I've done repeated Google searches; alas, the data I can provide has not yielded any results for me. Hopefully someone here has been Google-fu and can find it.

Thank you to anyone for taking the time to search.

  • 1
    Welcome to SFF! Excellent start here. If you have not done so already, would you mind taking take a look at this guide and see if you can remember anything else? I know you have already included quite a bit, but every little bit helps us. Thanks.
    – amflare
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 18:36
  • Thanks so much for the guide, @amflare, much appreciated! Unfortunately, I've done as much of the suggested list as I'm able at this point. BUT, I will come back and update if anything else comes to me. Thank you again!
    – Josh
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 18:40
  • 5th grade is probably too old, but maybe it was an early Mercer Mayer book like "One Monster After Another." I could see you conflating a menagerie-style book with shape-shifting. It probably was in the Scholastic Book club catalogs, but I don't recall for certain.
    – Yorik
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 19:29
  • 4
    So, it's not the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of this Book, featuring Grover. First thing I thought of....
    – RDFozz
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 20:25
  • 1
    I am thinking 5th-grade level means a short novel with illustrations: I had to read Hemingway and William Golding in 6th grade (c. 1980). Definitely not going to be Grover :)
    – Yorik
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 20:32

2 Answers 2


It might just be The Phantom Tollbooth. Your memory of it is the ending.

  • The Treehouse seems to be the Castle In The Air. The children run both to and from it.

  • The amorphous moster with the teeth:

    "Naturally," the giant replied in a more normal voice (but even this was like an explosion). "I have no shape of my own, so I try to be just like whatever I'm near. In the mountains I'm a lofty peak, on the beach a broad sand bar, in the forest a towering oak, and sometimes in the city I'm a very handsome twelve-story apartment house. I just hate to be conspicuous; it's really not safe, you know." Then he looked at them again with hungry eyes and wondered how well they'd taste.

  • and

    Next to him, but just a little behind, came the Gross Exaggeration, whose grotesque features and thoroughly unpleasant manners were hideous to see, and whose rows of wicked teeth were made only to mangle the truth. They hunted together, and were bad luck to anyone they caught.

  • The Phantom Tollbooth was regularly read out loud to fifth graders, and although not a picture book, it is famous for its vivid illustrations.

  • 1
    Wow, thank you so much! I can't verify this is or isn't the right book yet, but I'll try to do so before the bounty expires. If no one else answers (and it's unlikely), I'll award you the bounty even if I can't confirm.
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 15:27
  • @Josh Was i right? I'm in suspense!
    – TheAsh
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 12:16
  • I still don't know, but the bounty is going to expire and this is the only answer, so I'll give it to you! :) Thank you for your help!
    – Josh
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 16:45
  • @Josh Did you ever confirm this?
    – TheAsh
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 17:52
  • Nope, couldn't ever confirm. But thanks for giving it a good try. :)
    – Josh
    Commented Sep 3, 2019 at 6:49

This sounds like William O. Steele's 1960 'The Spooky Thing'. Two ornery Appalachian brothers are sent to town to buy vittles - on the way back they are confronted by a horrific THING, which is only described as having glowing red eyes and gigantic, jagged teeth. The THING eats their food and then decides to eat them. The rest of the book is a chase (although the brothers have time to tell a couple of rather gory ghost stories on the way). The THING trembles the ground as it crashes through the forest, chanting 'Bum bum, Sally Lum, picking up trees and throwing them as I come'. The brothers finally defeat the THING with the help of an intelligent rabbit. There is no tree house, but there is a covered bridge near the end.

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