A friend recently recommended I read Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Matt Phelan (2015 Candlewick Press). I was enchanted. While I know I can’t really have a monster, I do write picture books and so have been known to indulge in fantasies. What would I want my monster to do? Be a super-charming, super-productive agent for my manuscripts? Nah, I’d probably annoy too many publishers. Cut trees and stack wood for me so I’ve more time to write? I’d be afraid of what it’d do after it cut down all my trees. I know. I can’t really have a monster.
This book empowers children to do what they think is right despite the social norms of what one is ‘supposed’ to do. It’s not about breaking rules, rather it’s about being strong and working to get what you want. After reading it I was reminded of an older picture book about monsters: Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems (2005 Hyperion Books for Children) and went looking for it too. Serendipitously, I discovered The Monstore by Tara Lazar, illustrated by James Burks (2013 Aladdin). Together these three books make for a fun afternoon contemplating monsters, but they do much more for us. Kids can learn how bullying hurts, how to be a good friend, and in general learn positive character traits. Adult readers to children have engaging books to model these character traits. It’s almost better than having your own monster!