Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Call Him Monster

In all honesty, I had nearly forgotten these perfect little books. Did you forget them, too? Early readers from 1973 that I adored and moved on from, without further thought-- until I discovered some vintage paperback copies in my Mother-In-Law's collection of kids books she still has from her days as a public school teacher. But I recognized them at once, like meeting an old friend, and knew I needed to find the whole lot for myself. There are 12 little volumes in the Monster Book series written by Ellen Blance and Ann Cook, and illustrated by the incomparable Quentin Blake. And they are perfectly delightful... I can't confirm this, but I am sure they were written with input from young kids, as the writing style is so breezy and quirky, and extremely child-like, which is hard to fake (see above and below). Blake's drawings match the tone so perfectly, it's like a natural formation. It should come as no surprize that the series is considered a cult classic, and that it's become somewhat hard to find. I lucked into 8 hardcover 2nd printings recently, and it got me all excited again. The slim individual titles are like chapter books that follow Monster as he moves to the city, finds a home, a friend, and a magic umbrella, amoung other things. The official checklist is: Monster Comes to the City, Monster Looks for a House, Monster Cleans His House, Monster Looks for a Friend, Monster Meets Lady Monster, Monster and the Magic Umbrella, Monster Goes to the Museum, Monster on the Bus, Monster Goes to School, Monster Has a Party, and Monster Goes to the Zoo. It's impossible to deduce how much these early readers (along with the work of Sendak and Mayer) impressed me as a child, or how much they guided my future development, but I wouldn't underestimate the influence. I loved Monster then, and I sure love Monsters now!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Millie Merch

Well, it's been a couple of years since I last tortured you all with words and pictures of Millie the Lovable Monster, the sweetest creep ever to crawl across a comics page. I'm just sick enough to dig her, and I'm delighted to say that I recently aquired what is most likely the only ancillary Millie product... a die-cut colouring book from 1963! With all-new interior art draw by creator Bill Woggon, no less! The images roughly follow the stories from the comics in sequence, in case you're interested. Here are a couple of samples...

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cute Creeps

Those of you who've been following my sporadic posting on all things monster-kid-ish know I have a soft spot for Things created by weird young minds. I totally dig a good monster doodle with a fresh perspective. Along those lines, The Guardian recently held a monster drawing contest, and here are the winners. The Hairgobbler above is by Reef Dorr, 7, and is descibed thusly, "It is 25mm long. It is very hairy. This creature flies around, landing on middle-aged men’s heads. It crawls around to either the forehead or the crown, then uses the pincer on its tail to pull out the hairs. Then it eats all the hairs up! And this is the reason men go bald." Wonderful! And I just love the UK children's ubiquitous use of watercolors... very old-school.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

It's Alive! And it's a good read!

One of the best books I read last year was Frankenstein: A Cultural History by Susan Tyler Hitchcock. Really captivating overview of the phenomenon that is Frankenstein's Monster, with thoughtful and thought-provoking insights into the shifting pop culture that continues to remake the thing in it's own image. I was particularly fascinated with Mary Shelly's personal history and it's relationship to the novel, and by the feminist connections to the work and it's final acceptance as 'good' gothic literature. I think it's a terrific companion piece to David J. Skal's work... and highly recommend it to Monsterama readers. "This is our monster," writes Susan Tyler Hitchcock. "To know him is to know ourselves." More from the publisher...