Hooray for Sally O. Lee! She’s taken the fear of hideous monsters lurking…somewhere…and turned it into a tea party!
One of the hardest jobs of childhood is overcoming fear. The sad thing about overcoming fear is that it leads to growing up. Who wants to do that? If we don’t overcome fears, though, we miss out on so many great opportunities.
Is There a Monster Over There? is about a little girl named Mabel who was terribly afraid of monsters and expected to find them in a lot of places monsters shouldn’t be. Sometimes she and Tiffany, her cat, build a fort to keep the monsters at bay.
One day it occurs to Mabel that monsters might not be scary, that they may, in fact, be just like us. There’s only one way to prove this theory, of course, so Mabel examines a conveniently nearby monster. In so doing, she discovered something she has in common with the monster — it is just as afraid of her as she is of it.
I don’t believe that all children’s books should deliver heavy-handed messages (or any message outside of the story, for that matter), but I delight in children’s books that deliver a message that applies to both children and adults. Is There a Monster Over There? teaches us that if we don’t examine our fears, we don’t know what it is that scares us — maybe it’s nothing at all.
When Mabel and Tiffany confront their fear, they make a friend, so we also learn that if we don’t face our fears, we may be missing out on some pretty good things, like friends and tea parties. And you can never have enough of either!
Lee designed the typeset (“furry monster”), which is a neat touch, making the look entirely unique. Her watercolor and pen and ink illustrations convey the dark side of a child’s imagination, that place where the monsters hide until it’s time to jump out of nighttime closets. All is not dark, however, and Mabel, Tiffany, and the monster do get to frolic in the sunshine.
Bottom Line: Would I buy Is There a Monster Over There? Yes, even grownups need to be reminded that sometimes fears are unfounded.