Reviews of books for children, tolerated by adults.
The Monster at the End of This Book by: Jon Stone, Illustrated by: Michael J. Smollin
Source: Gifted to me by a friend. I am aware of no financial benefit so get ready for an honest review.
Many adults name this book as their favorite Little Golden Book. Generations of kids have interacted with lovable, furry old Grover as he begs the reader not to turn the page—for fear of a monster at the end of the book. “Oh, I am so embarrassed,” he says on the last page . . . for, of course, the monster is Grover himself!
Synopsis: Daniel (because I have no idea why the synopsis by Goodreads does not explain what happens and oh a spoiler alert should be added.)
Lovable, Furry Old Grover stars in a book where he interacts directly with you, the reader, as both of you confront the title’s problem: there is a monster at the end of this book.
The Baby’s Review
Son loves this book. He maniacally turns the pages, sometimes two at a time. Why not, the illustrations are fun and Grover presents a lovable character to find out what happens next with.
The Adult’s Review
Buy this book before it gets banned, seriously, it is a great book and I am sure someone in the literary community will get around creating a twitter campaign to ban all books that anyone finds interesting. Hashtag: reading-with-children-should-be-boring-and-have-nothing-for-adults-to-ponder (is this how the Twitter works?).
Grover’s character displays everything we need to know about him on the cover, he is lovable, not just because the book says so, but the illustration conveys it; Grover has no rigid or straight lines, he has adorable larger than necessary eyes, evoking the Disney effect, he smiles directly at you and says: “Hello Everybody!” Grover on the first page evokes the everyman. Name for me a cover that has this much information about the character and has as much love directed at him as this one; it is that good.
Grover is the tragic character protagonist in direct conflict with the antagonist: you the Reader. Grover knows what a monster’s definition is, something he has every right to be afraid of and thus, begins a propaganda campaign to dissuade the Reader from continuing the turning of pages. The Reader’s motivation is to reach the end of the book and made me question my own logic in forcing a lovable character to confront something he pleads he does not want to. My conclusion is that as the antagonist, I am helping the protagonist face his fear, which in the end Grover does and experiences the character development that moves him to be the protagonist.
The fourth wall breaking is quite original for an illustrated story that I have read and smacked of Jim Henson actually being involved with this project; because there is no way a children’s book author would take the kind of chance with a known character that occurs in this book. I love Jim Henson, he hated the establishment and it shows in simple stories like these, because it is so different. I looked up the author, John Stone, and sure enough, he was a writer and executive producer for Sesame Street working with Jim Henson.
Michael J. Smollin gets Grover and how to convey a lovable, furry character and create great environments from which to tell a story. The above illustration is from the first page after the copyright page, it does a callback to the copyright page, how brilliant. Again name another book that starts on the copyright page. There are no straight lines to Grover, just a lovable character who emotes exactly what he is thinking and allows the Reader to portray Grover while reading it to their loved one.
Mr. Smollin thought about Grover’s efforts and the reader is constantly reminded of them: the books pages never quite close. In the above example we see Grover erecting a wall to stop the reader, when the page is turned, the effects of turning a page are seen: the bricks are squeezed between two sheets of paper, the overspill crashes through on the top portion and cascades in the appropriate angle. It is just great.
I have read this book with my son a number of times and appreciate the intricacy of the drawings, the philosophical ramifications of making someone do something they do not (I am a father after all), and just a great character in Grover. Seriously, kids love it, get it read it to them, before the thought police take this one away.
Thanks, Daniel for an insightful review of a book for small people. What about you, Reader? Do you have any children’s book recommendations with subversive messages?