This Book is a Monster
Eyes deep as the sea and green like grass. Noses black like rain clouds and pink like erasers. Teeth sharp as sticks. Mouths black as ink. Skin slimy like fish and blue as the sky. During my week teaching at the Loft, I was lucky enough to witness the creation of a whole herd of unique monsters.
Some were hairy. Some were lonely. Many made weird noises. One monster won a spelling bee. Another was obsessed with cheese. The young writers in my class took their monsters very seriously, and it showed. By the end of the week, students had turned their ideas into handmade books that embodied their monster creations, with guidance from the talented staff at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
On the first day, we tackled the question, “What is a monster?” We went through a list of familiar characters—Shrek, Hagrid, Sully Sullivan, Olaf the snowman—and I was amazed by the thoughtful and passionate (and loud) debates that followed.
Then, we dove into ideas that were brand new for many of the first, second, and third graders in the class—onomatopoeias, similes, and haiku poems. The students asked good questions and handled all the new concepts like champs.
The class used similes to write poems describing how their monsters looked. Later in the week, they used those descriptions to build their monsters out of paper and attach them as pop-ups to their books.
Eyes as deep as the sea
Nose as pink as an eraser
Hair as purple as sunrise
Smile as happy as a clam
Ears as small as a fish
Flower as sweet as candy
Skin as smooth as paper
Eyes green as grass.
Hair blue as the ocean.
Skin blue as the sky.
Teeth sharp as an axe.
Nose hairy as a tiger.
Ears sensitive as air.
Mouth green as trees.
Then, students began to develop their monsters as characters. They considered the likes, dislikes, wants, and origins of their creations. Then they jumped into first-person perspective and imagined a day in the life of their monsters.
Today I woke up. Next, I ate breakfast. I got dressed, brushed my teeth, then waited for the bus. The bus took me to school. I said hi to Miss Peppermint and went to music class. After music class I went to the bathroom and had lunch. Then I read and I did math, then I rode the bus home. Then I ate dinner, then I did my homework. I slept. I woke up at midnight. I went to the ball and I slept. That was the day.
Meanwhile, students had also been learning to marble paper with the Suminagashi method, making their own monster stamps, and readying the insides of their books for their written pieces.
Today I slept and ate and dominated the world!
Cheese cheese cheese!!!
Then, we combined onomatopoeias and haiku to write short poems packed with sound. Turns out it’s not always easy to spell all the noises monsters make.
meow! when she’s tired.
grr! I see a sea monster.
splash splash splash splash splash
aw-oooo, Wolfoy said,
at night howl at the moon,
run to see his friend.
kaboom kabang crash.
splash flush aiiii oh no stomp grr.
wy-yyy bang ouch bonk.
On the last day, students imagined recipes that their monsters would cook. Some were delightful. Lots were gross (in the best way). While I myself would never eat Human Hair Soup, I’m glad there’s a monster out there who would.
It was incredible to see the completed books on the final day of class. Students showed off their pop-up monster faces and read aloud from their favorite pieces. It was a week of collaboration and organic growth—for me and the young writers—that I felt lucky to be a part of. And look out, world, the brand-new monsters Genius Head, Lily, Wolfoy, Adorable Snowman, Rocky, Mia, Teena, Worm, and Scaly are out there waiting for you.