Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book-Crush Wednesday (8)

So I waited until the nighttime to write this week's book-crush post. And I am SO glad I did.

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.

That book is 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 think in the end that's what's so wonderful about this story. It begs to be read aloud, to be shared, to be enjoyed together. I don't think it's the book itself that I remember so fondly, but the memories surrounding it. Memories that I know my brother will love sharing with his child (though I can't imagine him doing a Grover voice, either.)

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.

12 comments:

  1. Congratulations Aunt Heather! Yay for the baby! I can go visit him for you, if you want. ;-)

    Oh man, I loved this book so much when I was a kid. My copy was at my grandparents' house and shared with all of my cousins, and I have very vivid memories of sitting in their back room and reading it to my younger cousin. It's such a great book.

    And OMFGMTANDERSON.

    That's all.

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  2. Congrats, Heather! And I still have my "Monster at the End of this Book" from when I was a kid. (And I'm almost 32, so that should tell you how old it is!) It went through all three of my girls, and I've made sure to give it to pretty much all of my friends' kids as well. I can still remember the anticipation, the way my mom read it as we got closer to the end. I loved it. Definitely a great book. I even mailed the "newer" version, the one with Grover AND Elmo, to a friend's daughter just yesterday!

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  3. Yay, congrats on becoming an auntie! I absolutely loved "The Monster At The End Of This Book" as a kid, but had completely forgotten about it until I saw your post. Great choice!

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  4. I LOVE "The Monster at the End of This Book!" I bought it for my daughter, but I think I was too overzealous in reading it because she calls it "the monster book" and doesn't want to have anything to with it now. Perhaps if I explain its metafictional qualities to her...

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  5. Congratulations!! Also, I LOVE The Monster at the End of This Book. A portent for things to come? My tastes later? IDK. But it is adorable and every child should have it.

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  6. Congrats Heather!

    I still have my childhood copy of The Monster at the End of This Book and I heart it hard

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  7. My *favorite* book as a child, and my favorite book to read to my seven-month old daughter.

    Also, congrats on being an auntie!

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  8. LOVED The Monster at the End of this Book when I was a kid! Congrats, auntie, and thanks for the idea of a book I can buy my niece for her birthday. I am also *that* aunt that buys books :)

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  9. Aw, you guys...seeing all this love for MatEotB makes my day :)

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  10. AAHHHH This WAS and IS my FAVORITE BOOK EVER. It's the perfect kid book, and I can't wait to read it to my kids. BEST.

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  11. Just catching up on your blog... Our little nephew is the most beautiful baby ever!!! I'm sure every parent/aunt/uncle thinks this of their own, but for real, he's gorgeous.
    And you might not be able to hear our brother do a Grover voice, but I've heard his Yoda voice, and he does occationally get silly like that, so I can totally hear him doing that for his son. :)
    You did talk about Monster in a different post (not a book-crush, though). We all did the "I can't turn the page" thing, even little you eventually, because dad was so funny doing it.

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