Writing in free verse and illustrating in stark black-and-white watercolors for Mary’s Monster, Lita Judge tells the story of Mary Shelley, the pregnant teen runaway who authored the first Gothic horror story, Frankenstein. Lord Byron’s challenge to write a horror story may be the often-cited reason Shelley wrote her book, but Mary’s Monster demonstrates the way the author drew on elements of her own difficult life to create the story of an experiment gone awry. Judge tells the story through Mary’s voice. Her sparse verse weaves the story of Mary’s own rejection with her creation of a monster rejected by society.
Mary was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecroft, an early feminist who died in childbirth. Mary’s father, William Godwin, was a well-known philosopher who socialized with gentry. Teenaged Mary met and fell in love with the wealthy, married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. When their passion resulted in conception, Mary was asked to leave the house by her father and abusive stepmother. Mary followed her lover across Europe, living at times in poverty, other times in comfort, convinced of Shelley’s poetic genius. While staying at one point with Lord Byron, Mary accepted his challenge and wrote for nine months, birthing a novel that has remained in publication for 200 years.
Mary’s Monster grabbed my attention for many reasons. The text is sparse with only the words that are needed to work with the images to tell Mary’s story. The watercolors are black and white, at times done with fuzzy edges that create a mystical feel that communicates Mary’s search for freedom at a time in history with many social constraints on women. Just as Mary birthed a new genre of literature, Lita Judge worked 8 years to create this unique form of storytelling: it’s not a graphic novel, not a picture book, but a riveting 312-page graphic narrative, re-introducing the genius of Mary Shelley. – Recommended by Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
PubDate: January 30, 2018
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