As a child, Sam Streed ’13 occasionally watched scary movies or TV shows, but he wasn’t a big fan. “I remember that I cried watching Scooby-Doo,” he says. Today, however, Streed has written and illustrated a new children's book about a little boy obsessed with monsters and terrible things.
Streed returned to campus this week to talk to classes and discuss his new children’s book, “Alfred’s Book of Monsters
.” Artwork from the book, his first, is on exhibit in the Angie Newman Johnson Gallery in the Ainslie Arts Center. The EHS community — including many children of faculty and staff getting ready for Halloween — gathered Thursday night in the gallery to celebrate the book at a reception that included monster-making activities.
Streed started the book as a project for a children’s book class he took while a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. Asked to set the action in a particular era, he picked Victorian England “so that I could draw monsters and spooky, misty, foggy scenes.” His love of the macabre has grown since his childhood, he says. “It's fun to be edgy and push the limits.”
Alfred, his protagonist, voraciously reads scary books filled with monsters. To depict the characters that capture Alfred's imagination, Streed did an extensive study of English folklore and such legendary creatures as the Black Shuck. In Alfred's book, he's described as having a single “blood-red eye” that “burns with an undying rage.”
“They're all firmly rooted in folklore, but I changed them around a little to make them walk the line between cute and scary a little bit more,” Streed says. “The original monsters and spirits are definitely darker.”
Alfred’s aunt, appalled by her nephew’s obsession, insists that he put aside his books, become a “polite boy,” and attend her “delightful” tea parties. Alfred, however, foils his aunt, delivering tea-party invitations to graveyards and other monster haunts and gathering a host of ghouls for a tea party that is more to his liking. “They all had a terrible time,” the book declares.
Streed’s father is Jeff Streed, who teaches Latin and Greek at EHS. His two brothers are also alumni: Eric ’09 and Jack ’17. He dedicated the book, “To Jack, who can’t read,” a joke aimed at his brother, a standout mechanical engineering major at Northeastern University. “I tease him about being dumb, but he’s wicked smart,” says Sam.
Streed, who works as a 3D visualization artist for the online home store Wayfair, is currently illustrating a nonfiction children’s book by Caldecott Award winner Jane Yolen. He’s also working on a sequel to “Alfred.” Reviews have praised his debut, which is for ages 3 to 7, but hint that it might not be the right cup of tea for every child. Kirkus
called it “a delightfully spooky book for sturdy young readers.”
Noting his fears of Scooby-Doo, Streed himself says: “I think my younger self might not have enjoyed this.”