About the Holiday
Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. In fact, the monster she envisioned continues to inspire writers to create stories of all types from humorous to the truly frightening – or a combination of the two, as you’ll see in today’s book!
That Monster on the Block
Written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt | Illustrated by Luke Flowers
Someone was finally moving into Vampire’s old house. Monster, who lived next door wondered who it might be. He hoped it might be an ogre who would invite him “to swim in his mucky, murky swamp.” Or maybe it would be a “greedy goblin with piles of gold to jump into.” Perhaps it would be a dastardly dragon who would throw greasy barbecues. As Monster practiced how he would say hello to his new neighbor, he watched the movers carrying a trampoline, a unicycle, and lots of trunks.
At last his new neighbor emerged. He was wearing “big floppy shoes” and had “wild orange hair” and “a round, red nose. It was…a clown?” Monster couldn’t believe it. He immediately called the neighbors. “‘Unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh, unnnnnhhh,’” said Zombie when he heard the news. Mummy shrieked, and Yeti roared. They all agreed that the neighborhood would never be the same again. None of the neighbors welcomed Clown to their block, so he went around to each house to introduce himself. But no one answered the door. Clown left notes and surprises at each house and went back home. When monster found his gift gummy worms, he threw them in the trash. Clown, meanwhile, sat on his porch “and waited. And waited and sat. No one came around.”
But Clown was naturally happy, so he perked up his dreary house, played a happy tune, and erected a tent. “Monster called a neighborhood meeting. ‘This is out of control!’” he shouted. But Zombie was busy delighting some neighbors with the brain cake Clown had left him, and Mummy was having fun scaring up laughs with the mummy in the box she’d gotten. Yeti was enjoying tricking others into smelling her trick flowers and then spritzing them with water.
No one was listening to Monster, so he decided to do something about the interloper himself. At midnight, he rattled chains and banged on a garbage can lid. But Clown didn’t hear it. He was out doing good deeds to help his new neighbors. In the morning Monster was awakened by circus music. He immediately picked up the phone, but no one answered his calls. “‘It’s time for me to have a word with that bozo!’” he said. He stomped over, but on the way he couldn’t help but find the music catchy, the smell of popcorn enticing, and Clown’s invitation to cartwheeling class at his circus school at least a little intriguing.
Inside the tent, he discovered all of his friends having doing circus tricks. When he learned that Clown was “zero percent creepy” and lots of fun, he decided to him a chance. He enjoyed the day so much that Monster even invited him to tea on Sunday. As Monster poured out the tea and passed around sludgeberry swirl scones, a moving van rolled up the block. Out popped a…well, you’ll have to welcome them yourself, just like all the other neighbors!
Sue Ganz-Schmitt turns somersaults with the usual tropes involving diversity in her story as it honestly portrays truisms about prejudice and how both injustice on one hand and understanding on the other spreads through a community. While Monster’s reaction to immediately alert the neighbors and hold a meeting seems to get a big response, readers will see that by the time the meeting takes place, most of the neighbors welcome the newcomer and the positive changes he’s brought. Ganz-Schmitt’s well-paced and superb storytelling is loaded with personality, puns, and the perfect light touch that will have readers taking her story and lesson into their hearts.
Luke Flowers does wonders with larger-than-life characters, and his depictions of Monster, Clown, and all the neighbors are pitch-perfect. Flowers sets up his visual delights early with the image of Vampire’s old house, which is gray and foreboding with detailing that subtly turns the stone structure into a bat. Later Clown converts these same details into clown faces that will charm kids. Just as in the circus, Clown makes a surprise entrance, one that little readers will guess at with glee. Snapshots of Monster calling up his neighbors appear to show that Mummy, Zombie, and Yeti are on board with his dismay, but Ganz-Schmitt’s monster-sound reactions are cleverly noncommittal. Add in the neighbors’ obvious delight with the gifts Clown leaves (a full-page jack-in-the-box image will bring shrieks of laughter), and readers will happily be in on the vibe at the meeting-turned-party.
Contrasting illustrations of Monster trying to bully Clown into leaving and Clown helping out around the neighborhood give kids and adults opportunities to talk about important issues that arise at school and in the news. While images of Monster having fun at circus school show his changing attitude toward Clown, when his displeasure seems to rise again with the entry of another unexpected neighbor, readers will see that this time he has a different and more welcoming reaction. (Added note: Make sure to inspect each page carefully for added visual humor.)
A clever story that delivers important messages about preconceptions, discrimination and acceptance with humor and respect for the intelligence and awareness of children, That Monster on the Block is a must for home, school, and public library story times all through the year.
Ages 4 – 8
Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542005333
Discover more about Sue Ganz-Schmitt and her books and find That Monster on the Block coloring pages on her website.
To learn more about Luke Flowers, his books, and his art on his website.
Scare up some fun with this book trailer!
Frankenstein Friday Activity
Rocks make perfect jack-o’-lanterns or pumpkins to decorate your home at Halloween or all through the fall!
- Round, smooth rock ( or rocks in a variety of sizes)
- Orange craft paint, and other colors for a multi-hued pumpkin patch
- Black permanent marker or black craft paint
- Short sturdy twig (one for each rock)
- Hot glue gun or strong glue
- Clean and dry the rock
- Paint the rock, let dry
- Draw or paint a jack-o’-lantern face on the rock, let dry
- Glue the short twig to the top of the rock pumpkin
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Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Books-a-Million
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Picture Book Review