By Luciana Leitão

Writing for children is definitely one of those challenges one can only dream of mastering. Characters have to be dense enough, simple enough, sentences short enough, clear enough. It’s a challenge, one that Portuguese author Ricardo Adolfo and illustrator Jessica Kersten have excelled, in Os Monstrinhos da Roupa Suja (The Little Dirty Monsters)

This is a story of Stain, Stinky, Smudge and Scruffy (or Nódoas, Pivete, Bedum and Chulé), four pieces of dirty clothes, who continuously try to avoid being washed. They thrive on dirt, they eat the leftovers, they sleep bellow mattresses and they are constantly running away from the house mistress.

One day, they find out their friend Stain is nowhere to be found, so they start a search mission. Once they find Stain is hanging outside, drying after being washed, they initiate a rescue mission, taking him to a pool of mud, so as to regain conscience. Who can resist this story?

Plus, it is really well-written, so as to capture the attention of the little ones, usually more prone to getting distracted along the way. The names of the characters are funny, the descriptions are very vivid and funny, the illustrations are very good.

This is a friendship story aimed at children aged four to eight — and it probably is not the most suited behaviour for children, as the main characters are pieces of clothes who love being dirty, but it’s fun, pure and true.

What sometimes displeases me in children’s stories is the morality involved — the right and wrong, the good and bad. Life is not like that, so I have always wondered whether this is really what we want to teach our children — that there is a bad wolf chasing three cute piglets, and trying to destroy their houses so as to be able to eat them. Forget about the mankind’s persecution of the wolf, maybe because of stories such as these, but think about what is involved — an only two-sided reality, no subleties, no nuances.

So, once I encounter something fun, clever and really well-written, like Os Monstrinhos da Roupa Suja, which I read to my two-year old son, without feeling the need to explain, I feel relieved. Because stories are sometimes just stories, and there can be a party of stained and dirty clothes, running away from cleaning-freak mom.

The laughs from your child will certainly make it worth it.