Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Monster at the End of This Book: Life Lessons for Teachers & Students

The whole text, including illustrations, can be found here:!
When I was young, one of my very favorite books in the whole wide world was the Little Golden Book The Monster at the End of This Book, featuring the adorable Grover from Sesame Street.

The book starts off with Grover freaking out because the cover says that there is a monster at the end of the book, and he is scared of monsters. He spends the next several pages trying to get the reader to stop turning the pages so that the end of the book is never reached. First, he simply begs. Then, he goes through more elaborate set ups like nailing the pages down and building brick walls. It is all very cute.

When the reader arrives at the end of the book, Grover realizes that he is the monster at the end of the book, just "lovable, furry old Grover." There was nothing to be scared of all along.

Like I stated in an earlier post about Fraggle Rock, I think there is much that we can learn from children's literature. In this simple book, which is all of 20 pages of pictures and speech bubbles, great life lessons are revealed:

1. We cannot stop the unknown. No matter how many walls we build, we will eventually be forced to face it. Inquiry is better than resistance or blind persuasion. Grover would have done better to ask about the monster rather than to immediately try to persuade us against turning the page. Likewise, he learns nothing from his resistance. It is us, the readers who are curious, who continue to turn pages, who manage to help discover the truth about the monster at the end of the book.

2. Stereotypes are often wrong. Grover mistakenly believes that all monsters are scary, but he finds out that it's possible for them to be furry and lovable. This happens in real life all of the time, and we have an obligation to remind our students and our selves of this fact.

3. The things we fear the most are often pieces of ourselves. What is scarier than knowing that we have the potential to become something people dislike? Bullying, for example, often arises from a fear of being outcast; they outcast others so that they will not be recognized as outcasts.

4. Embrace your inner monster! Grover, once he gets to the end of the book, is not ashamed of being a monster but embraces it. Helene Cixous says something similar in Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. She says that good writing requires us to reveal the worst about ourselves, and not simply to confess it and let it be washed away, but to own it.

1 comment:

Niki said...

We also learn, in this book, that the author can trick the reader. This post made me think of Iain Mcewan's "Atonement." Have you read it?
Niki A