Welcome to Monsterville, by Laura Shovan, with illustrations by Michael Rothenberg is a sweet, sometimes silly, moving, always charming collection of art and poetry that brings a variety of monstrous (in the best of ways) emotions to life.
The story behind this book is immensely touching. The seeds for the book were planted in early 2020, as Laura first mentions here. How did the book grow? Check out this post, "When I Cry," which is an explanation of the book's growth, a tribute to a beloved friend, and a farewell to that same dear friend who passed away much too soon (and before his collaboration with Laura was published.)
In the Author's Note, Laura tells us more about the spirit of the monsters that Michael drew and Laura brought even more fully to life through poetry:
We didn't know then, in January 2020, that the dark shadow of Covid-19 pandemic was about to overtake us. Michael and I sat talking at a wooden picnic table outside Wakulla Springs State Park. Decades ago, the classic monster movie Creature from the Black Lagoon filmed scenes in the springs' pristine water. But we had our own shadows and monsters to deal with. Michael had recently lost his only son, Cosmos, to addiction. My own college-aged son was clawing his way out of a years-long depression.
Michael began doing art therapy and one day sent Laura the first of many monsters:
...when it moved in, I wasn't surehow this strange being, round and tall,would squeeze in through a door so small.
Emotions are like that — surprising us when they move in, sometimes feeling strange and too big for the space we think they should occupy. That's the beautiful and subtle theme that's woven through this work.
Hunger is an "Eleven-eyed monster/banging on my door." A monster has a birthday ("They laughed and hugged each friend/and said, 'I never knew you cared.'") A "strange new breed of rooster" finds a way to break free, and a root monster "hums a sweet song/during long lonely hours/of purple-blue moonlight/and dancing with flowers."
One of my favorite poems from the book is "Green Cave," in which the speaker, wrestling with anger, seeks refuge in the comforting cave of a forsythia bush. The speaker is joined by a "monstrous bird" with blue feet:
The monster sang about being so angry
that it feels like a million arrows are prickling your skin.
Its wings beat to the song's rhythm like a soft, calm breath.
Ever since then, when I'm so mad I can't stay inside,
I go to the green cave and listen for the monster's song.
Michael's perfectly paired drawing:
Speaking of delightful, the Poetry Friday round-up this week is being hosted by the lovely and gracious Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise. She's not only welcoming us for Poetry Friday, but she's also hosting her annual Clunker Exchange. Details are in this post.
Next week, Irene Latham has invited everyone to a "Moon in June" themed roundup. She's creating educator resources for her upcoming book, The Museum on the Moon.
Irene says, "You're invited to share a favorite moon poem (yours or someone else's), a moon story, a moon memory, a moon dream...or whatever your moon-heart desires!"
More details are here.