Thursday, October 2, 2008


Monsters lead such innnnnnnnnnteresting lives, so says Bugs. And they do too. Thanks to the vivid imaginations of young children everywhere.

I have an incredible little girl named Tully in my class who just turned six last Thursday. She has been charming me with her writing and drawings about monsters. Strange as it seems, given the fact that I routinely expose my first grade students to the monsters of Greek Mythology, I have not come across too many children who regularly write about things that go bump in the night. Those terrifying things that lurk in your closet or stow away under your bed waiting for you to let down your defenses before they grab you. When I was little this last bit became a reality thanks to the torturous sense of humor of my older brother Wally who unexpectedly grabbed my foot when I stepped towards my bed after getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I wonder how long he was hiding under there to scar me for life.

Anyhoo, I have become totally enamored of Tully's artwork (see below).
Mommy and Daddy go out and then monster come. "No, No" "No, No"
Monster eats candy

The purpose for monsters became clear to me as I looked at Tully's drawings. How silly that I never realized it before, but monsters are there for us to conquer. To help assure ourselves that the things we fear are not all that bad. That monsters can come but the worst they will do is eat your candy. They remind us that we are in control. How did I miss that? Did I miss that or was it just so obvious that I did not think about it as deeply as I have this past week?

For her birthday I thought it would be great if I could read Tully a few books about children who battle monsters and come out on top. Mercer Mayer has some fantastic books depicting brave children (boys and girls) who confront their 'something' or 'nightmare' or 'monster' and discover that it is ultimately harmless.

Check out these three by Mercer Mayer:

There's Something in my Attic

There's a Nightmare in my Closet

There are Monsters Everywhere

Another title I just discovered is called Harry and the Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach. In this story a little boy discovers a 'whatzit' hiding behind the furnace which made me laugh because it reminds me of this story from Joy's childhood.

As an adult I find there are unfortunately still some monsters that I have had to face. Happily, like the boy with the cork gun in There's a Nightmare in my Closet, I have found that when I confront the things that scare me the most they turn out to be less fearsome than my imagination created. There is a power in facing down the monsters, in taking away the mystery of wandering fear and dealing with reality rather than fantasy.

Monsters may lead "innnnnnnnnteresting lives" but life is much more interesting when they are put in perspective and float quietly through the side door.


Joy Keaton said...

I think it's hilarious that the "Whatzit" was created just about the same time as my Grandfather was telling me his story! And fyi: there are no monsters under the bed. Closets. Closets are the real deal.

Dumdad said...

Monster blogpost!

lettuce said...

great post gary.

i've not thought about this in relation to monsters so much - more in relation to acting out abandonment fears. LG went through a phase of constantly (incessantly!) wanting to play a lost child game where I'd find and adopt her...

[then no doubt she'd come in and eat all my candy :-)]

The Wolves in the Walls is another good one

oh, and do you know "Not now Bernard" - david McKee? a different kind of monster take, but v. funny

marxsny said...

My stars where did you ever get that awful hairdo? It doesn't become you at all. Let me fix it up. How stringy and messy it is, what a shame. My stars if an interesting monster can't have an interesting hairdo then I don't know what things are coming to.

Bobby pins please...

Oh dear, that will never stay. We'll just have to have a permanennant.

Barbara said...

You've just given me the theme for my next read-aloud at the homeless shelter. I'm sure books on monsters would capture the attention of these kids who have had so many monsters (real and imagined) in their lives. How about an activity? Is there something they could do or make in a half hour?

Gary said...

Joy - Thanks for the heads up! I'll be sure to keep all closets closed. :)

Dad - LOL

Letty - Joy actually bought me The Wolves in the Walls. Good book but not as accessible to the young ones as the Mercer Mayer. However, you have made me want to take it out again and rethink that. You have got me very curious about the McKee book. I will definitely check it out. Thanks.

Mark - I can't believe that you wrote out that whole monologue! I love the bobby pin line. I was going to include that clip with this post but in the interest of brevity I nixed that idea. I love that you added it here.

Barbara - Oh, that is so great that you do that. I am happy that you found the post helpful. After the reading we had the kids draw a monster in their sketch books. We wanted to keep it as open ended and fun as possible. I think it is best to allow children to take off in whatever direction their imaginations may lead. They created some innnnnnteresting monsters of their own. Drawing is the easiest activity to follow up a reading but if you want to get more involved you can provide a variety of materials (pipe cleaners, construction paper, glue, wiggly eyes, yarn, etc) for them to use in creating a monster of their own. Please let me know what you decide and how it goes. Have fun!

la bellina mammina said...

Why do they say skeletons in the closet and monsters under the bed.....??

la bellina mammina said...

Oh, btw, thought you'd like to wrote .... "children who 'regularity' write about things" - to mean 'regularly'... :-)

Gary said...

Bellina - Oops, thanks. I made the change. Now that I look at that I realize that I could have used a better word there. But, I'll keep it as a testament to my owning up to mistakes and so anyone who reads this isn't going "Huh?"

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

Monsters rule!

That particular Bugs Bunny episode is one of my favorites. ;-)

Gregg promised to invite me to the next NYC Bloggers get together - yeah!

LadrĂ³n de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Great pictures from the kids. I hope you post the picture frames they were working on Monday when they are finished.

Bobby D. said...

I have a thing for Gossamer. He was actually very loving, it was the scientist who told him to be mean to people, and so he did as he was told. he was a real softie though.

Bobby D. said...

My friend's son kept complaining of a monster under the bed--she kept telling him to go to sleep. He kept waking her up, described its hissing and glowing eyes... she finally looked under his bed--there was a huge raccoon under it. (she grabbed the kid, slammed the door and called animal control)

Anonymous said...

What a cute story. I am surprised you didn't tell some of the scary things Grandma did to you! But she loved you so!! Love ya, Ma xxoo

Steve Reed said...

Wow, that IS a great post. I have some monsters I still need to address!

(Love the "monster eating candy," especially the monster's messy chocolatey cheeks!)

Gary said...

Steve - I was taken in by the monsters chocolate cheeks as well. I think when I saw how she 'demonstered' him in that way I began to see the purpose of creating monsters in the first place.

Mom - I could devote many posts to your mom. Perhaps a running feature "Tips from my Grandmother" that would include various ways to tease young kids for your own enjoyment. Of course it was all harmless and is fully appreciated by the adult I am now. Boy, I miss her!

Ched - I remember your love of Gossamer from a post you did on him a while back. I find that most folk have a soft spot for this poor, misunderwstood, orange bundle of love.

That poor kid - he really did have a monster under his bed. Yikes.

JT - Now that you mention it I should include one frame in particular because of what it surrounds. My favorite class rule (which I'll save for another post.)

J.DZ-S - Why wait? Let me know when you are in NYC and we'll start another blogger meet up. You, me, Mark and Joy to begin. Keep me posted.

Reya Mellicker said...

That's a pretty happy monster ... maybe the candy helps.

I always love it when you feature your students' artwork. Why can't we adults make drawings that are so vivid and real?

Oh. some of us can ... not me, though.

So glad you had the day off! Enjoy.

much love xoxo

edward said...

are you going to post your hands talking?

Mikey T said...

this is not entirely related, but I just went on the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, and they've converted the whole thing to a Nightmare Before Christmas theme for Halloween and its so cool and you would totally love it!!

Miranda said...

Great post. I had a monster called 'Mr Green' as a child. He stood about 3 feet high, was basically two round blobs - a round body and a smaller round head - and was green and covered in spikes. I was terrified of him at first, but my mother got me to draw him and write stories about him until eventually he became my protector against whatever other monsters I had.

WAT said...

Dem monster drawings are purty funny man. HEE!

I got my own monsters to deal with, but I am putting them aside for now. My teaching goals are on hold yet again. It's a long story, but I have issues. Can't ya tell by reading my blog? LOL!

Thanks for always faithfully stopping by my blog and saying hello. It only makes my crush on you grow.



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