Friday, July 2, 2010

Book Review 2 - Genre 3 - Monster Museum by Marilyn Singer

Bibliography -

Singer, Marilyn. 2001. Monster Museum. Ill. By Gris Grimly. New York: Disney Hyperion Books. ISBN 9781432121008.

Plot Summary –

Monster Museum is a single poet compilation anthology of 21 poems and includes a “glos-scary.” The first poem sets up the premise of children going on a tour of the monster museum. The following poems are descriptions of various exhibits in the museum, and the final poem is a farewell to those who visited the monster museum. After the poems is a glossary that gives information on each of the monsters, scary things, and mythical creatures mentioned in the exhibits.

Critical Analysis -

Monster museum is a great collection to share anytime but particularly around Halloween. While the reader will enjoy the absurdity of the poems, lots of enlightening information is also presented. The reader learns much about the various creatures not only in the glossary but in the poems themselves. For example, the poem on Frankenstein points out that the creator of the monster is Frankenstein, and that the monster had no name of his own. While most poems give accurate information, one is suspect. The poem on the unicorn says, “A lizard with wings is a horror, /A stallion with wings is a beaut. /A snake with a horn is a nightmare, /A mare with a horn is just cute” (p. 31). Here the poem implies that a unicorn flies. This is not accurate. The winged horse from Greek mythology is known as Pegasus and is not a unicorn. This small gaffe does not take away all the laughs.

Pardon the previous playing with rhymes, but Singer does the same in this collection. Mostly the rhymes are entertaining and creative. The poem on the Blob has a very interesting rhyme and use of language. It plays with variations of the word job and continues the rhyme with the new word. Only one rhyme falls a little flat; it is in the poem, “The Ogre, The Troll” when she rhymes “them” with “them.” Besides rhyme, Singer also uses a considerable amount of alliteration, repetition, and interesting line structures to enhance her poems. In the poem “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, she writes the poem as dialogue between the two who are the same person. It makes for an interesting format. Her use of language and structure create a not too spooky kooky collection of amusing poems.

This book of poems is illustrated by Gris Grimly (a pseudonym for Steven Soenksen) using watercolors. The illustrations are perfectly paired with the poems. Grimly starts off in the welcoming area of the museum with the children and their guide and moves through each exhibit with exciting and hilarious images. The characters are all exaggerated in one way or another which adds to the fun. The children on the tour for example have pencil thin legs and overly large feet which is a comical combination. Each page is loaded with visual extras to explore just as one would find at a real museum exhibit. Medusa’s beauty parlor is quite fascinating with the wide range of shears and accessories. And in the end, the monsters go home on the school bus with the children symbolizing the knowledge the children take with them after visiting the museum. Every excellent museum strives to leave a lasting impression on their guests and Monster Museum is no exception.

Review Excerpts -

Publishers Weekly - "Among the season's best creature features."

School Library Journal - "This fresh, witty book will be popular for not-so-scary storytimes, as well as independent reading."

Kirkus Review - "Singer's poems are lively and humorous..."

Connections -

*Share the poems during October and use as part of a Halloween display.

*For fun, play the Disney recording of the song "Monster Mash" and have the children listen to identify which monsters appear in both the museum and the song.

*For older children, have them do some Internet research and see how accurate her portrayal of the monsters are.

*In groups, have the children research other monsters, scary things, or mythological creatures and write poems for their own exhibits in the Monster Museum.

*Have students compare/contrast the illustrations in other books by Gris Grimly:

  • Gris Grimly’s Wicked Nursery Rhymes ISBN 9780972938877.
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness by Edgar Allen Poe, ISBN 978068984837.
  • The Dangerous Alphabet by

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