From the Afterword
I remember finding a book on the kids’ shelf of my family’s library when I was
a child. It was a picture book with words. The sentences were short and the photographs
pretty. After six decades of life, I no longer trust my short term memory
but I still remember that book. I recall its simple design —a photograph with
brief text on each spread. The story was simple, too. In first person, a girl told
of the things that she liked. These were things that had universal appeal. She said,
“I like flowers” and facing those words was a photo of flowers. The book continued
with a litany of appealing subjects—nothing debatable. I read that book,
geared to beginning readers, in one sitting. The last spread delivered a question,
really a punch, that stays with me today. It read, ‘Why don’t people like me?’
and on the facing page was a photo of a black girl. This may have been my first
experience with concepts of difference, exclusion, inclusion, privilege —and it
opened my eyes to our nation’s history of racism. I’m not sure when I encountered
that book, but in 1960, I was ten. Civil Rights legislation had not yet been
enacted, but civil rights demonstrations were ongoing and wrenching our country.
Eisenhower made the brave decision in 1957 to send the national guard into
Arkansas to accompany maverick black students who, in accordance with Brown
vs. The Board of Education, were the first to integrate a Little Rock high school.
All the words in Monster are from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern
Prometheus, which was first published in 1818 and written when she was 18.
Shelley’s monster in Frankenstein is reviled by all because of his outer appearance.
Just as there was savage hatred towards blacks in our country because of their skin,
the monster, too, was an outcast because of his appearance. Shelley’s book creates
a fable for generations of human creatures who often need to re-examine how
they tread on moral ground that continues to shift.
Max Brodsky, a dog, plays the Monster. Max, in his day-to-day life is far from
a monster. He has a superb moral temperament and can’t fathom the concept
of evil. He makes people smile, has soft fur, and steals socks. Charlee Brodsky
designed Monster and made the photographs for the book. The typeface is Bembo
and the book is printed on Red River Aurora paper. The portrait of Mary Shelley
on the last page is by Richard Rothwell and was shown at the Royal Academy
in London in 1840.