Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monster Poems That Frighten and Inform

Are you looking to frighten a child in your life? Not sure where to start? How about trying out the gamut of monsters and seeing what scares them the most? ::wink::

The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme is a book that came out this spring and introduces children (and their uninformed parents) to some common monsters that one may find in film, literature and everyday life. "Ghostwritten" by Bobbi Katz and illustrated by Adam McCauley, this is a somewhat tame outing that can be appreciated by most kids over the age of five or six. There isn't anything terribly scary in it and in fact most of the humor seems to be for the parents who get to read this out loud (like the Zombie census form). Being a classic monster fan, I loved introducing Z to some of my favorites like King Kong, the Loch Ness Monster, Kraken, Yeti and Doctor Frankenstein.

I found the illustrations in this book to be more consistently awesome than the writing. I loved some of the poems but others focused too much on rhyme and not enough on rhythm or content. Z shouted out "this is a rhyming poem!" during a couple of them because the rhymes were so heavy-handed and obvious. The author also didn't seem to "get" what makes some of these monsters so cool -- like turning King Kong into a Ping Pong opponent, having Godzilla be a fan of milkshakes (?) and revealing that the Yeti eats spaghetti. These just seemed a bit too cheesy and I was hoping for something a little more in the spirit of these scary classic monsters.

Still, many of the entries were totally amusing. There is a witchy version of the song "My Favorite Things" that is really clever. You will also not want to miss the recipe for Grendel's "Danish Pastry" -- full of lots of tasty Danes. The best poem is probably the one titled "From the desk of Count Dracula" and is an invitation to visit him in Transylvania.
Just buy a one-way ticket. There's no need to splurge.
I'd really love to see you. It's an overwhelming urge.
You'll find that I'm a genial host,
but at times I think I'll burst,
unless I drink a bit of blood to satisfy my thirst.
A friendly nip, a little sip is harmless, you'll agree.
It's natural and organic, and my castle is smoke-free."

My favorite part of the book though was teaching Z the song "The Worms Crawl In". He's been singing it for days and it cracks me up.

Head over to Adam McCauley's website to see his award-winning endpaper design for the book -- faux stamps based on classic movie monsters. They're fantastic!

I'm having a great time sharing some scary reads with Z this year. He's finally old enough for some gentle frights and I love seeing some of these things through fresh eyes -- like the fact that he thinks the Kraken is female (he calls her "Mrs. Kraken"). And I certainly never thought I would have the chance to explain The Golem to a five year old but suddenly "a man made of mud" sounds much cooler. Z's eyes lit up at that idea!

Monster poems are really great ... don't put them off 'til it's too late!
K and Z

Support our site and buy The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme on Amazon or find it at your local library. We borrowed this book from the library.


  1. I love that bit of Vampire poetry. Wondering if it freak my girl out or entertain her?!

  2. Sounds like fun ... and a bit of a harmless way to "scare" our kids. We got a book from the library -- A Medieval Beastiery -- and it scared my boy! Gave him nightmares. I felt really really bad. But the coolest thing in it (that we both liked) was the Vegetable Lambs -- these tiny little lambs that grow in plants. When they can't reach any more food (they are attached to the plants), they die.

  3. Jux and Jenners - This book was rather light-hearted so I think your kids would be okay. Plus, I just supervised Z's read and scanned each monster before reading it to him. I skipped a couple that I didn't think he would find amusing or that might be a tiny bit disturbing and I didn't leave him alone with the book.

  4. They probably had a few great ideas (the Grendel thing sounds hilar!) and then the rest was kinda filler...

  5. Lenore - Sounds like a good theory. I bet the kids like it all anyway!