Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Be Afraid...Be Very Afraid

In 1940 a title won the Caldecott Honor award which would firmly cement Ludwig Bemelmans's name in the annuals of children's literature, Madeline.  Even today the first line is as familiar to most people as the refrain from a top ten song or the memorable quote from a classic movie.

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

When a song, movie or book has stood the test of time, become a favorite for generations, it can also be like a red flag to a bull.

When two great minds succumb to the temptation of applying their particular blend of humor to a classic, then readers are in for a treat.  Apparently author Rick Walton and illustrator Nathan Hale got bored one Halloween and replaced not only Madeline with a monster but the entire story has taken a turn toward the dark side.  Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody (Feiwel And Friends, an imprint of Macmillan) by Ludworst Bemonster is a spectacular, spooky story.

In a creepy old castle
all covered with spines,
lived twelve ugly monsters in two crooked lines.

Child-like versions of a skeleton, the bride of Frankenstein, a dragon, a pumpkinhead person, Dracula, a werewolf, a devil, a zombie, a one-eyed, long-tailed, reptilian alien-type guy, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a mummy and Frankenstein do not break their bread, brush their teeth or go to bed.  Of course not, they're monsters!  There's a lot of head bonking, taking out of teeth and bed wetting.

When it comes to the good and the bad people they meet, it's safe to say everyone should run away...far, far away.  With all their boisterous bellowing the streets empty fairly quickly.  There is no littlest but an ugliest.  It's none other than Frankenstein.

Man, beast, even rocks are frightened by this mean, green being.  Poor Miss Devel falls victim to his torture, too.  Awakened in the dead of night (how she sleeps is beyond understanding) knowing something is not right, down to the dungeon she goes.  It would seem little Frankie has lost his head, literally.

Dr. Bone, a coffin, a hearse and two screws fix him up fine but the laboratory is never going to be the same.  During a frightful visit on a frightful night his fiendish friends don't want to go, oh no.  But Miss Devel has her say, until awakened in the dead of night, she knows something is not right.

Rick Walton's masterful use of language is readily apparent in each carefully written phrase, staying true to the original but giving it a humorous, twisted spin.  He's perfected each and every rhyme in all its monstrous gory...er, glory.  When you believe the end has come to a quiet close, think again...he's given readers a little bit more.

Devel screeched, "Call Doctor Bone!"
who came, then screamed, and grabbed his phone...
and dialed, FrankenSTEIN-ONE-ONE.

As a parodic partner Nathan Hale matches each selected syllable with clever, comical illustrations that define detail; done with Kuretake brush pens and Rapidograph Ultradraw ink, coloring with M. Graham Watercolors and Photoshop. A darkly hued palette of oranges, blacks, grays, some greens and browns with spots of red, yellow, blue and purple, creates a ghastly atmosphere for the visuals.  Beginning with the jacket the embossed seal is not the Caldecott Honor but A CaldeNOT Horror Book with who else, but a skeletal version of the Headless Horseman astride his stead. The front and back endpapers are nearly all orange, a dungeon wall, portraits of the castle inhabitants appropriately framed; the mummy in hexagon shaped frame with an Egyptian emblem at the top, the pumpkinhead person posing in front of a pile of pumpkins by a barn.

On the title page Feiwel And Friends is crossed out to read Feiwel And Fiends.  When Miss Devel checks on the monsters at rest in the dungeon, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is holding a fish like a stuffed animal and the skeleton is in a heap.  The layout and size of the pictures mirrors the original Madeline, as does the shift from limited colors to full page color.  Each reading will reveal more despicable particulars.

Rick Walton and Nathan Hale, aka Ludworst Bemonster, have written and illustrated a title, Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, sure to produce ghoulish grins and giggles even if readers are not familiar with the original.  By following the link embedded in the title above you can view more of the illustrations at the publisher's website.  Links to the author's and illustrator's sites are attached to their names.  The official book trailer is below along with a video of a song that has been playing in my mind constantly as I read this story.  I highly recommend this title.  (Head over to the Madeline website by clicking on her name above.)


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