Monster +

A Book by Charlee Brodsky and Mary Shelley, Featuring Max Brodsky

       

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.