Book Title: Marlow and the Monster
Author: Sharon Cramer (illustrator as well)
Original Publication Date: 2012
Edition Read: 2012 B&F Publishing
Total Pages: 22
Genre: Kid Lit
Reason Read: To participate in the blog tour that provided me with a free copy.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
“That night, the monster crawled backwards through the window…again. It scrambled with its short legs, trying to reach the floor. Marlow crossed his arms and said, ‘I’ve had enough!'” – Page 1
Unlike scary monsters, the monster infiltrating young Marlow’s room does not send him hiding under the covers. Marlow’s unwelcome monster is a pest. He is uncooperative, has a hard time listening and does nothing but cause trouble for poor Marlow with his parents. You see, they don’t believe in this monster nonsense because all they see are the results of the monster’s work. They just want Marlow to knock it off and behave, like his little sister, Sarah. It turns out that Sarah is the one with the solution for Marlow’s monster, and it doesn’t involve making him disappear. Turns out, monsters can be pretty neat to have around.
I received a free copy of Sharon Cramer’s newest children’s book in exchange for our participation in this week’s blog tour. I willingly agreed because my dusty degree in Elementary Education gave me another layer of interest in the kiddo books beyond my childhood fondness for them. I am forever casting an evaluative eye on the topics their stories tell and the way the writers and illustrators choose to give them life.
Cramer is both the author and illustrator of this work and the drawings are meticulous. I am always appreciative of fine details to examine and pick up on throughout multiple readings, because a good one is going to be read over and over and over and over if the child has their way. Looking for the little mouse, examining the literary titles on Marlow’s bookshelf or watching the kitty come and go were fun to notice on my subsequent readings. I was not a fan of the black & white palette, finding it a bit harsh on the eyes and kind of busy with so many lines capturing all of that detail. But the style serves the purpose of highlighting the brightly colored monster, so vividly painted because only the children can see him.
As for the story, I didn’t quite get it myself initially. Monster is annoying, monster gets kid in trouble, monster gets passed off onto little sister, little sister turns monster into friend, kid happy with new playmate. It was odd to me that the monster wasn’t scary – so what’s the big deal then? He wanted to play in the way he thought the boy would enjoy. I honestly found Marlow more irritating than the monster! But forgive me. I skimmed through very quickly on my way out the door for a weekend away with family. I didn’t spend any real time thinking it through. But I did tuck it in my bag to share with the kids I’d be seeing for the next few days.
I gathered the kids around me while they were off playing away from the grownups. I didn’t want any helpful parents providing influence on the task at hand. I explained to the group of boys (First, Second and Third Graders) that I like to read a lot of books. And I write my thoughts about them on a website. Kind of like a book report. And sometimes, the people that write books send them to me for free hoping that I will read and write about their stories so other people can learn about them. I told the boys that this time however, I was sent a children’s book. And since I’m a grownup and my child is too little for this book, I needed some children to read it and review it for me. I let them know that it was a book about a monster – who was not scary. He was a real pest. Kind of like an annoying little brother who doesn’t listen and as a result, you always end up getting yelled at by mom and dad (it should be noted that two of the boys present were in fact brothers and the elder looked at me very knowingly when I went through this part of my summary). I told them that there was also a little sister in the story with an important role (all of these boys happened to have a little sister). I asked them if they could help me and they all agreed. I handed it over and one of the boys clapped his hands together like the quarterback coming out of the huddle and said “OK guys – let’s read.”
Although I had expected they would all read the book together, it seems they instead took turns reading it alone. Each one of the boys came up to me separately later in the evening and told me that the book was “Awesome!” They really liked the pictures. They volunteered a synopsis so I knew that they had each in fact truly read the tale. They thought it was a fun book and enjoyed reading it. They did not have any questions, for me or for the author. If I had read it to them instead, I could have gauged things a little better, but I wanted them to be fully in charge of this big responsibility so I left it in their hands. They seemed quite pleased with themselves.
Because these were not my children, because I was not trying to turn it into a round table discussion that might cause an attention revolt and because I really just wanted to get back to my cocktail conversation with the grownups, I didn’t engage the kids further about the kinds of fears they have in their worlds. I didn’t find out if they picked up on the lesson of learning to manage anxieties. That feelings are valid, whether they are always acknowledged by others or not. That killing things with kindness is often the key. All of these are lessons this book can bring up for discussion depending upon the age level of your child.
**As part of this blog tour, Cramer has very generously offered up the e-book version of this book for FREE this week only through Amazon. Simply click on the link above in the book’s title to download your own. In addition, Cramer is doling out a hardcover copy of this book to one lucky visitor to Quirky Girls Read. To enter, simply tell us in your comment below what your biggest fear was as a child, and how you got it under control – or maybe you’re still working on that! We’ll pick a random winner at the end of the day on Sunday and make the announcement next week. Good luck and happy e-reading in the meantime!**