Horror and children’s literature are a crossover you don’t expect to see, but Bret Nelson and Pete Mitchell’s 2024 book The Part Mart is exactly the right mix of creepy and cute. While not a horror book in the classic sense, the idea of a literal body shop and a disembodied head watching YouTube are, perhaps, a little bit out of the realm of what we expect to see in a children’s picture book and enough to give this book an honorary spot in any horror lover’s book collection.

The book stars Millicent Clark, a young adolescent who, like many preteens and teens, is unhappy with her body. Specifically, her feet. She feels her feet are too big and her toes are too long and thinks her feet are ruining her life. That is, at least, until she happens upon a billboard for The Part Mart, a place that promises to trade out the parts of yourself you aren’t happy with in exchange for something better. What starts out with a simple leg exchange ends up spiraling more and more until Millicent is no more than a disembodied head on a shelf watching her “new” body find fame and fortune without her!


The Part Mart is written in a series of rhyming couplets which gives it extra points right off the bat. Kids love the singsongy cadence of books that rhyme and adults will appreciate the creativity and complexity of the vocabulary used to tell the story. The prose feels very kid-friendly in its rhythm while at the same time not using over simplified language and not shying away from using more advanced words and phrases, making it entertaining for kids as well as adults. When a book rhymes the phrase “aggressively passive” with “incredibly massive” in a description of Millicent’s large, awkward feet, you know you’re in for a rich literary experience. 

Where this book really shines is its sense of humor, especially in dealing with body issues and self-confidence. It utilizes a somewhat zany approach to bring up a touchy subject that can be a huge issue for kids and teens. After all, who hasn’t had a part of their body they wished they could upgrade or trade out for something “better”? The pacing is perfect for young readers and the rich and dynamic illustrations bring life to a surprisingly heartwarming story of self acceptance and self-love.

The Part Mart isn’t entirely above criticism, however. While the story and the illustrations are sure to make it a family favorite, especially if your family happens to be the Addams family, there are a few issues with the book’s layout . There are places where the text overlaps the illustrations, which distracts a bit from the story. There are also a handful of grammar and syntax issues, such as using the word dread instead of dreaded, but as this is an advanced reader copy, there is a good chance the layout and grammar issues will be resolved before the final printing of the book. The only other issue with the book is the use of the font comic sans which has in recent years become a meme-ably hated font. While it is a fairly easy-to-read font and definitely kid-friendly, it’s also a bit obnoxious to look at and it would do the book a service to pick a less universally disliked font. 

Overall, Nelson and Mitchell’s book is an accessible, perfectly paced read destined to become a family favorite. With its simple yet quirky illustrations and a story that everyone can relate to, The Part Mart is more wacky than scary and is a great, gentle introduction to body horror that is more likely to induce fits of laughter than nightmares. The inherent creepiness of a disembodied head and a tricky body part salesman is balanced by the charming illustrations and wholesome message. As a librarian, I could see this book quickly becoming a storytime classic for a wide range of ages and a favorite of future horror fanatics.


The Part Mart (2024) is available to preorder at Encyclopcalypse’s website here (Available May 7th)

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