πŸ‘Ή Marvelous Monsters πŸ‘Ή

It’s that spooooooky time of year when you might encounter a monster on your morning commute or evening stroll, in a grocery store aisle or neighborhood yard decoration, amid your dreams and under β€” or next to you in! β€” your bed. While monsters have long served humans as metaphors for fear of what is different and/or unknown β€” the word “monster” comes to us in part from the Latin words for warning and demonstration β€” there’s been a necessary rehabilitation and welcome expansion of the concept of the monster in Children’s literature and media in particular. From Maurice Sendak’sWhere the Wild Things Are” to Sesame Street to “Monsters, Inc.,” monsters are not just lurking in the shadows to antagonize or gobble us up. In this more generous, compassionate light, monsters can also help us to empathize with other human and nonhuman creatures and consciousnesses, reflect on and shift our perspectives, challenge assumptions and biases and process and understand our tender and turbulent emotional lives. That’s why I like to think of monsters as ✨ marvelous ✨ β€” real/imaginary beings who are connected to wonder, surprise, astonishment and even smiles.

This spooky season, I invite you and your loved ones to consider how and where monsters show up in your lives and imaginations. To open the conversation up or keep it going, check out some of the titles on this ✨ Marvelous Monsters ✨ booklist. Below are a couple of my favorite titles that playfully and/or powerfully complicate how we might think of and experience monsters.

Cover for the children's book "Bartholomew and the Morning Monsters," featuring a child with tan skin and a tuft of black hair yawning in bed with his eyes closed while various colorful monsters are circled around and grinning mischievously in the background.

This story is for night owls everywhere. Ever had a morning where time seemed to unspool out of your grasp and every chore or part of your routine was disastrously disrupted? You might find some validation or consolation in Bartholomew’s mischievously monstrous morning.

read-alike: “Monster Trouble”

Benita and the Night Creatures” by Mariana Llanos and Cocoretto

Cover for the children's book "Benita and the Night Creatures," featuring a tan-skinned child with red glasses and black hair pulled up into two pigtails reading a green book in bed with her brow furrowed while three creatures of various colors lurk ominously in the background.

A gaggle of monsters from Peruvian folklore try to scare young Benita as she reads at night, but the only thing more fearsome than their antics is Benita’s fierce determination to finish her book. Night creatures, beware β€” or better yet, gather ’round for some reading magic!

read-alikes: “Bedtime for Beasties” ; “The Not So Quiet Library

Emi Isn’t Scared of Monsters” by Alina Tysoe

Cover for the children's book, "Emi Isn't Scared of Monsters," featuring a red-headed child wearing a silver colander on her head and elbow-length yellow kitchen gloves on her hands while holding a lit flashlight under her chin. In the blued darkness outside of the flashlight's beam, a yellow fluffy dog with a tennis ball in its mouth sits on the right while many monsters crowd the background, looking apprehensively towards the child.

Sometimes facing or simply acknowledging our fears can help us process through and even beyond them; moreover, placing our concerns in a larger, more considerate context can bring us back to balance so that we can truly “rest and digest.”Β In this humorous yet thoughtful reversal, Emi is most definitely not scared of monsters and hunts about the house with her handy-dandy monster-catching “provisions” to trap them once and for all. But upon closer inspection, things may not be quite what Emi has imagined, and the monsters themselves may also definitely be scared of brave little girls.

read-alikes: “El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!”; “Looking for a Jumbie”; “The Monster Above the Bed”;Β “Quit Calling Me a Monster!”; “Under-the-bed Fred

Let’s Play Monsters!” by Lucy Cousins

Cover for the children's book, "Let's Play Monsters!," featuring a white blonde-haired child held aloft by a yellow and orange alligator-like monster with multicolored scales. The child and monster are looking at each other excitedly.

Sometimes becoming a monster can be fun, a celebration of joyful connection. Sometimes becoming a monster can help us transfer and transform our rambunctious, intense feelings, too.

read-alikes: “Time (out) for Monsters!”; “Where the Wild Things Are

Me & My Dysphoria Monster” by Laura Kate Dale and Ang Hui Qing

Cover for the children's book, "Me & My Dysphoria Monster," featuring a brown-skinned child in a green puffy jacket looking apprehensively to the right where a marbled blue-black spectral glob with yellow slits for eyes hangs in the air. In the background children of various races and genders play and talk together.

In this tender, poignant title, young Nisha is struggling with a very particular kind of monster: her gender dysphoria monster, which describes the extremely distressing and disconnecting psychological experience that prevents Nisha from being present with and loving towards herself, as well as her family, her friends and her larger community. While Nisha experiences deep hurt, confusion and isolation on account of her monster, she learns from a trusted adult that her monster is also trying to protect her: it is “that little voice that knows who we are and who we want to be . . . and it doesn’t like to be ignored!” With this compassionate understanding, Nisha is able to make peace with her monster and find the courage and care to affirm her true self.

I am so excited by and grateful for the use of monsters to help kids and adults alike name, understand and reflect on their emotional and mental health and comprehensive sense of wellbeing. Just like emotions can be complex, multifaceted and fluid, so can our monsters.

read-alikes: “The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions”; “Milo’s Monster” (on jealousy); “My Monster and Me” (on anxiety and panic); “Small Knight and the Anxiety Monster” (on anxiety and worry); “The Snurtch” (on anger, grouchiness and irritability); “The Whopper” (on guilt and lying)

Monster Meditation: Being Patient with Cookie Monster”

Cover for the children's book, "Monster Meditation: Being Patient with Cookie Monster," featuring an illustration of Cookie Monster, a bright blue humanoid creature from Sesame Street, standing in a kitchen while cookies bake in an oven in the background.

Thank goodness for the loveable, mischievous and mindful monsters and critters of Sesame Street, who have long validated and encouraged the minds and spirits of so many young β€” and old β€” humans! In this series of board books, we learn that meditation and other kinds of self-soothing strategies may seem hard or onerous if you’ve never tried before, but it really can be as simple and transformative as taking a moment or pause to check in and connect with your self and environment by means of your senses. Take it from me and Cookie Monster, probably two of the most impatient beings who have ever existed! πŸͺ

other titles in this series: “Monster Meditation: A Change of Plans for Elmo!”;Β “Monster Meditation: Getting Ready for Bed With Elmo”; “Monster Meditation: Time to Focus, Grover!”; “Monster Meditation: Time for School, Rosita!

Some Monsters Are Different” by David Milgrim

Cover for the children's book, "Some Monster Are Different," featuring a young orange dragon-like monster who is wearing a purple helmet and cape, a blue tank top and speckled green shorts. The young monster's helmet has an antenna sticking up from the middle and green antlers poking out from either side with little jack-o'-lantern earrings/decorations hanging off the antlers.

Monsters β€” like animals, like fungi, like humans, like minerals, like plants, like stars β€” are varied, various, versatile and ever-changing.

read-alikes: “Friends”; “Maurice the Unbeastly”; “Mostly Monsterly”; “Unlike Other Monsters”