You know why? Because I'm an aunt! My brother's wife had a baby today, and so another tiny adorable human has entered the world with 10 fingers, 10 toes, and a cute little fuzzy cap on his head. (Well, maybe the cap wasn't on his head when he was born, but it was in the picture my brother sent me so that's how I'm remembering him now.)
I won't get to meet my little nephew probably for a while. They live on the other coast, and newborns don't really like to fly. So to make sure he knows how much his Aunt Heather loves him, I bought him some BOOKS that I'm sending in the mail (and I can totally talk about them here because my brother doesn't read this blog.)
The first book I bought is Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! And as wonderful as that book is, I've already talked about it in a book-crush post (in fact, it was my very first one)! So we're going to skip it today (even though it's still awesome and you should still read it.)
Instead, I'm going to talk about the major crush I have on the other book I purchased for my little nephew. It's a book I've had a crush on for so long that my original copy (which has the price marked on the front cover - 89 cents!) is missing the back cover and has tape on the pages. And some coffee stains. (All of this can be viewed closer to the bottom of the post, along with the new copy so you can see what it should actually look like.) And also I'm pretty sure that this is the second copy of the book I owned, because I think the first copy ended up missing both front and back cover at some point.
The Monster at the End of This Book, and to Childhood Heather, there could never, ever be a better book. Ever.
In the story, Grover reads the title page of the book and discovers that there will be a monster at the end of it. Oh noes! Grover is scared of monsters. He does everything he can to prevent you from getting to the end of the book - he ties the pages together with ropes, he bricks them up, he nails them together - but in the end, you make it, and who is the monster? --SPOILER ALERT!!!-- Why, it was just lovable, furry old Grover all along! And boy is he embarrassed...
I don't know what it was about this story that spoke to me so much, but I couldn't get enough of it as a kid. I begged my dad to read it to me every night, and he happily obliged. It's one of my best memories of him. He didn't do a Grover voice, but he did act like he couldn't pull up the pages, to which I would huff, roll my eyes, and help him. Of course, if he simply flipped the pages, I don't think I would have loved the book nearly as much, and I would have lost interest quickly. But I didn't lose interest. I loved it so much it was the first book I could read on my own. And by read I mean "recite from memory at the age of 3."
I learned from M.T. Anderson at SCBWI-LA (in one of the best lectures on literature I have ever attended) that the story is a strong example of metafiction in children's literature. (Incidentally, the pigeon books also use metafiction.) Metafiction is any element in a story that addresses the fictional work. Picture books do this a lot because young children like to interact with their books. In Monster at the End of This Book, Grover actually tries to impede the forward momentum of the narrative by interrupting the turning of the page, but that in itself becomes the narrative:
Look closely on the left and you can see how the pages are stacking up behind Grover as he goes! He leaves debris everywhere.
Anderson also brought up this exciting dichotomy present in this book - we fear the monster along with Grover, because we trust Grover and he fears the monster. Yet we desire it, we're curious, so we keep turning pages, even though our trusted friend tells us, begs with us to STOP. But in the end --SPOILER ALERT!! -- it works out. This book is way more complex than my little 3-year-old self ever knew. (Dude, all of this is from M.T. Anderson. HE'S A GENIUS, I KNOW. And this is just what I remember, as I didn't take notes because I was too busy basking in all of his awesome, so I'm sure I'm mucking it all up.)
Anyway, if you haven't read The Monster at the End of This Book, you should. But more importantly, if you haven't read The Monster at the End of This Book to someone you love - complete with "I can't pull this heavy page back" motions - you're truly missing out.