John Hobbins called for bloggers to write about their favorite children’s stories, and while I haven’t officially joined the list of contributors, I did want to say a word about my favorite children’s story: The Monster at the End of This Book. Sadly, I no longer own this book and have not been able to read it to my daughter, but I will be picking up a copy some time in the near future.
What I loved so much about this book as a child was the way in which Grover took every opportunity to dissuade the reader from turning the page, but then basically commended them for doing so. It was like he couldn’t believe how courageous you were for having the stones to flip the page. But by the end of the book we discovered that the monster was just little old Grover, and while he tried to play it off, he was ultimately embarrassed.
Now I’m not one to over-analyze things and try to read a deeper meaning into everything, but I think that often times we fear the unknown, only to find out that once it’s made known it’s not all that scary. Isn’t FDR famously quoted as saying: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”? In this book the monster is unknown to the reader, yet we’re driven to find out exactly who or what this monster is. Curiosity trumps fear in this instance and from the reader’s point of view, the discovery is one of delight.
But Grover appears genuinely scared until we reach the final page. So was it all an act? Let us suppose that it was an act and Grover knew that he’d be at the end of the story and just didn’t want the reader to see him as a monster; what does this say about not wanting to reveal ourselves to others? Or was Grover really ignorant of the who the monster was and genuinely fearful to find out? Judging from his embarrassment I’d say that he was genuinely surprised to find out that he was the monster; but then what does this say about self-discovery? Are we afraid to take a deeper look at ourselves for fear of being embarrassed at what we find out?
I submit that if we all were to follow Grover’s advice and never turn the page for fear of the end result, we’ll always be doomed to judge every book by its cover and never discover the quality (or lack thereof) of its content [excuse the excessive use of metaphor].