Friday, May 8, 2015

Marilyn's Monster by Michelle Knudsen

Marilyn's Monster by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Candlewick Press

Rating: 5 stars

There's always a New Thing in kids' lives (and in the social parts of parenting, too, don't you think?). What's it in your child's world: An iPad? A specific brand of shoes? Certain socks? I'm willing to go out on a limb to say there is something that everyone wants, but only some people have in most schools in this country.

In Marilyn's school, that thing is monsters.

Everyone's got one. Whether it's big and scary, tiny and cuddly, toothy and happy, or stylish and snappy. Everyone's got one, that is, except Marilyn. And the thing is, you can't just go buy your monster at a store or find it in the forest. It finds you. So Marilyn's got to be patient while her monster finds her. Or so everyone tells her.
Timmy's monster chose him right in the middle of a history test.

But it's hard to be patient when Franklin's monster surprises him in the library! And Lenny's monster creeps out to scare away the bullies chasing him. Or Rebecca's monster comes along on his own bike while she rides her!

Everyone's got one or is getting one. Except Marilyn. She feels stung by what she doesn't have. Every breath has a tinge of jealousy. Everyone tells her, "Be patient!" and "It'll happen when it's supposed to!" and "Just sit tight and wait."

She does all that. And then gets tired of waiting nicely like she's supposed to. She pulls on her hiking boots, packs two sandwiches, and goes out to search for her monster. Hours into the hike, her patience gone and her anger mounting, she shouts, "WHERE ARE YOU???!"

And she hears a tiny voice: "Here."

And then, very softly, she heard a voice say, "Here."
(Enlarge the picture. Look up in the tree, on the right.)
Her monster is up high, stuck in a tree. Her monster's long, lovely wings got tangled up in the branches. She climbs up, goes out on a limb, and rescues it. They share sandwiches in the tree, then her monster flies her back home, where she reports to her family that she and her monster "found each other."

Her big brother is annoyed--it's "not supposed to work that way." She looks at him, her face softens, and she thinks "there were a lot of different ways that things could work."

I love this book. I love the realistic sting of envy in the beginning, the process of waiting she goes through, and the go-get-'em pluck that Marilyn displays by the end when she's too impatient to wait any longer. I just love it all. Michelle Knudsen has written many books over the years, but this is my favorite. By far.

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