Monstrousness is in the Eye of the Beholder: thoughts on two children’s books.

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What do you end up with when you make a mistake following the recipe for a monster? My children and I have found two library books both involving similar plot twists, both delightfully funny with a fair dose of shadenfreude. We laugh at the character’s misery, for the characters are miserable not because bad things happen to them but because good things have. They are mixed up stories.HIlda and the Mad Scientist by Addie Adam and Lisa Thiesing

Hilda and the Mad Scientist by Addie Adam with pictures by Lisa Thiesing. Hilda loves to help out. She goes where she’s needed and stays till she’s not. Of course she doesn’t realize that she is definitely not needed at the Dr. Weinerstein’s house no matter how uncomfortable Dr. Weinerstein’s rheumatism might be, so she goes there to stay indefinitely. Dr. Weinerstein decides he needs a monster to chase her out but since she’s already freshened up his laboratory his recipe goes horribly wrong and oh my! The monster is a monster alright, but in whose eyes? Not Hilda’s! I love the switching around of what is right or wrong. We know a clean house is good, but not for Dr. Weinerstein! In its silliness we can both sympathize and feel joy at Dr. Weinerstein’s unhappiness.

Meaner than Meanest by Kevin SomersThe second book is called Meaner than Meanest and it is by Kevin Somers with pictures by Diana Cain Bluthenthal. The old hag is the second meanest creature in the world and her cat is the meanest. She goes to make a monster meaner than meanest – presumably meaner than the cat, that is, but if the monster is meaner than the cat then the cat isn’t the meanest, so how can anything really be meaner than meanest?! Her recipe goes awry and she’s ends up with sickeningly sweet Daisy, a little girl who befriends everyone around. The hag’s Halloween is ruined. How can she have the darkest, spookiest, creepiest Halloween ever with Daisy around?

The best line in the story is “What kind of stupid recipe for a monster makes a little girl when you forget the eye of newt?” and somehow it seems so suited that it was an eye forgotten because from a different point of view the little girl could be considered a monster. She’s the total opposite of mean but she fits into the hags life monstrously. Yet the hag doesn’t want what would be a monster from her point of view she wants a monster that would be a monster from… well… a different point of view.

(Linking up to the Kid’s Lit Blog Hop on the blog hop’s one year anniversary post!)


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