There are monsters in all of us. Oh trust me, you know what I’m talking about. The-I’m-so-hungry-I-could-eat-an-elephant-monster. The-I-haven’t-had-my-coffee-yet-so-don’t-talk-to-me-monster. The-I-told-you-to-get-dressed-five-minutes-ago-monster. And each day we fight these monsters (or at least we try) to keep them hidden from the rest of the world. And kids most certainly have these inner monsters too, but its understandably often much harder for them to hide. The-why-can’t-I-do-it-too-monster. The-I’m-not-going-to-bed-even-though-I’m-overtired-monster. The-I’m-not-going-to-eat-that-monster. Oh, yes, we know those monsters well.
Sometimes, we all (yes, adults too!) could use a little help dealing with our monsters. Because sometimes our monsters are fun, but then sometimes our monsters are too much fun. Sometimes they’re pushy. Sometimes they’re scary. In honor of Halloween being just around the corner and our newest exhibition Monsters & Miracles up in our gallery, I’d like to suggest a few wonderful children’s books that not only challenge our monsters, but celebrate them as well.
One of my favorite monster books needs no hand selling and, chances are, you already have a copy on your bookshelf right now. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak very neatly and simply deals with the need to once in a while get a little wild and run free with your monsters. I have always loved that Max became king of the Wild Things because they were his creation and as a child I related to his need to be the craziest, the wildest, the boldest sometimes. Even though our imaginations can sometimes run away from us, Max wasn’t scared. And when you’re not scared of your monsters (even when those monsters have awfully sharp teeth and claws) you rule them, not the other way around.
Ed Emberley’s Go Away, Big Green Monster! is another wonderful book about empowering children to conquer those monsters, and works wonders with a toddler audience. It features playful cut-outs and bright colors set against a dramatic black background, teaching shapes and color concepts, but best of all – it’s funny. Piece by piece a monster appears with each turn of the page – eyes, nose, big sharp teeth – but the child reader gets the chance the take away each feature piece by piece until the monster disappears, all the while being able to say, Go Away, Big Green Monster! And quite frankly, where once two pairs of yellow eyes on a black page looked scary, by the end of the book, it’s just plain silly. Seriously, Big Green Monster. You don’t scare us.
But what maybe does scare us is vegetables. Lima beans, yuck! In Dan Yaccarino’s The Lima Bean Monster, illustrated by Adam McCauley, a boy’s clever way out of eating lima beans turns into a much BIGGER problem. The only way to get rid of a Lima Bean Monster? You guessed it, eat your vegetables. This is a very funny story that many kids can relate to and I love that in a situation so discouraging to a kid like having to eat something you don’t like, the child still ends up the one who’s empowered in the end.
Another favorite book is last year’s Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty. Jeremy is an introverted boy who never goes outside, but is seen watching other kids playing from his window. When he draws himself a monster that comes to life, instead of creating a friend, Jeremy has created one pushy, demanding monster. He even takes over Jeremy’s bed at night! While being funny to the reader, Jeremy has had enough and has to get rid of his monster once and for all, which in doing so, gets him outside for the first time and ultimately playing with the other children. For Jeremy, his monstrous creation is all the things Jeremy isn’t: extroverted, demanding and able to come and go when he pleases. Ultimately, creating the monster and confronting him is the catalyst for Jeremy to take control of his life.
Monsters don’t have to be bad or scary. Sometimes our monsters are WAY fun, but other people don’t think so. In Tony DiTerlizzi’s Ted, a boy’s imaginary friend has lots of ideas that although they look really fun, turn out to be not-so-great when his dad gets home. But, seriously, who hasn’t fantasized about making a room of your house into a swimming pool? It’s hard to tell whose monster Ted really is…the little boy’s or his dad’s? And like the Wild Things or Jeremy’s monster, Ted encourages the characters to let loose and actually ends up bringing the child and parent closer.
I’d love to hear about your favorite monster book recommendations in the comments below. And if you’re looking for more monster book recommendations, you might also be interested in reading my selections for scary books that are not too scary. And of course, if you’d like to buy any copies of the books I mentioned, we’ll give all of our lovely readers 15% off any of the books featured here. Just click here to start shopping and remember to enter in the coupon code: MONSTER at checkout. Coupon expires October 31, 2010.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my monster tells me I’m hungry and it’s time for lunch!