Allison's Book Bag

The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone

Posted on: November 3, 2012

A note from Andy, your guest reviewer for the next month:

I will be supporting Allison in two ways throughout November as she participates in National Novel Writing Month. First, I will do my best to stay out of her way. Second, I am taking on her blog duties by writing four or five guest reviews and possibly some other posts.

Rather than go to the effort of finding exciting new books to share with you, I am taking the easy way out by sharing exciting old books as I review my childhood favorites. Some of these are no longer in print, which might seem unfair. However, the Danny Dunn series can still be found at some libraries. As for Space Carnival—well, perhaps my review will have some entertainment value.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For my first review, I am starting with a book that is available everywhere…

Like many people of my generation and onward, I grew up on Sesame Street. I remember when Big Bird was the only character who ever saw or talked to Snuffleupagus. I remember when Grover would yell “Hey, froggy baby!” and slap Kermit on the back. I remember when there was no Elmo. I am old enough that it’s possible I saw the broadcast of the very first episode – but I’m not so old that I can remember whether I actually did.

The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my first books was The Monster at the End of this Book, a Little Golden Book “starring lovable, furry old Grover.” It was published in 1971. And yet, all these years later, it is still in print. That’s how good it is. There has been a sequel co-starring Elmo, an e-book and apps, and a pop-up version called Please Do Not Open this Book!

The concept is brilliant yet simple. You meet Grover on the title page, where he remarks that it “is a very dull page.” But on the next page it hits him: “What did that say? Did that say there will be a Monster at the end of this book?” Naturally he doesn’t want you to read any further. He tries to convince you not to turn the page, and yet you do. He then resorts to various methods to keep you from continuing. He ties the pages together, nails them together—Well, it’s a very short book, and if I say much more I’ll have told you the entire story.

The detailed illustrations of Michael Smollin are half the fun. As Grover’s methods of securing the pages become more and more extreme, and as you continue turning pages in spite of these restraints, Smollin’s drawings show the logical and hilarious results. My favorite are the illustrated edges of the pages that become more and more ragged and torn. As a child, I really felt that I was wreaking havoc on Grover’s constructions, which of course was tremendous fun.

The Monster at the End of this Book7

(Photo credit: Thoth, God of Knowledge)

And then there’s Grover himself, with his pleas and exclamations. The book is written by Jon Stone, who perfectly captures Grover’s personality and his rising panic, and makes his suffering the stuff of great entertainment. This should be no surprise, as Stone was a writer and producer of Sesame Street who helped develop the characters of Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and Big Bird. Stone’s writing is augmented by Smollin’s illustrations, as Grover’s dialog is not simply printed in plain text but is drawn, colored, and shaded in such a way that the reader knows exactly how Grover expresses each word. This is a great aid to parents who read the book aloud to their young children. I can still hear the quiet trepidation in my mother’s voice as she read, “Listen, I have an idea. If you do not turn any pages, we will never get to the end of this book.” Followed by the meek pleading of, “So please do not turn the page.” And finally the inevitable gut-wrenching horror of, “YOU TURNED ANOTHER PAGE!” (You will be denying your child fond memories such as this if their books are read to them by electronic devices. And this concludes today’s sermon.)

The Monster at the End of this Book11

Wouldn’t you love to knock down Grover’s wall? (Photo credit: Thoth, God of Knowledge)

If you are thinking that Grover’s book teaches kids to be destructive, don’t be a fuddy-duddy. It’s about helping Grover to overcome his fears, and thereby learn to overcome your own, and— Ha, did you see what I did to Grover’s brick wall? That was awesome!

Perhaps there are not many people who haven’t read The Monster at the End of this Book, given that it has been in print for over forty years. But if you happen to be one of these rare and unfortunate souls, please don’t wait any longer. It’s a fantastic book whether you’re four or forty. My wife and I have two copies. Ripping through all those ropes and nails and bricks takes its toll. It just makes good sense to keep a spare.

6 Responses to "The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone"

I enjoyed your review but, never having been a Sesame Street fan, don’t plan to rush out and buy a copy of the book. I grew up in the war years and the earliest book that I can remember reading was a small book about animals or birds (I forget which). It was only with Allison’s childhood that I met books intended for small children.

I’ve always thought that Allison immediately jumped to classics. I’m happy to learn she had to start out with little kid books just like the rest of us. 😉

Loved this book as a kid, my family had an original Golden Book copy. I work in a library and we just purchased a copy of it. I read through it once again enjoying it after all these years. I made my co-worker read it as well.

I’m sure there’s a good deal of bias when it comes to things we loved when we were kids. But I also know there are plenty of things I used to love but now can’t stand (see: Mork and Mindy). So it’s nice to be able to look back at some things we liked and realize we still like them. I’ll certainly never stop liking The Monster at the End of this Book. Grover rocks. (I mentioned in another reply that I don’t have my old books — but I DO have my old Grover puppet. He’s definitely seen better days, but he’s still hanging in there.)

Okay, I’m too old to have grown up on Sesame Street, but my kids loved it. I still have a beaten up copy of this little classic along with the older Golden Books such as THE POKY LITTLE PUPPY, THE SAGGY, BAGGY ELEPHANT, and THE TAWNY SCRAWNY LION.

Oh, The Saggy Baggy Elephant! I’d totally forgotten about it, but it was one of my favorites too. I wish I still had my old books, but I think they all got sold at garage sales — or were worn out so completely that they had to be tossed.

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