Monster vs. Boy
Karen Krossing, author
Karen Krossing wrote comics and poetry as a kid and dreamed of becoming a published writer. Today she is the author of many books for young readers, including picture books Sour Cakes and One Tiny Bubble and novels Bog, Cut the Lights, and Punch Like a Girl. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and regularly teaches writing workshops.
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In Karen Krossing’s meaningful novel Monster vs. Boy, a child faces a monster and his own past.
Eleven-year-old Dawz lives with his sister and their uncle, who adopted the children after their mother disappeared. He is happy, enjoys time with his best friend, and nurtures his passion for cooking. He also suspects that there is a monster in his closet. When he finally sees the monster, he realizes that he cannot tell anyone. He fears they will think that he sounds like his mother, who mumbled about yellow feathers and a scorpion tail. Mim has lived in the closet for years, enjoying her small space and listening to Dawz and his family read. After Dawz sees her, she ends up in search of a new nest, hoping to find friends and the secrets to reading along the way. But Mim and Dawz continue to cross paths; they are connected. A book whose story of a boy hunting a monster is really about mental health and learning to accept the darkest parts of oneself, this story builds as more people join in on Dawz’s search—and as each new character offers him their own support. The adults listen to and reassure him. His uncle shares information about his mother, giving him truths as he is ready to deal with them. Eventually, Dawz is ready to face Mim. The story is set in a small town with a history of monsters; the community expresses ready belief in Dawz’s claims. Stated differences in racial and sexual identities also feed into themes of acceptance and support the idea that Dawz must appreciate everything about himself, just as those around him accept and appreciate each other.
Monster vs. Boy is a supportive novel in which a boy learns to address his trauma—with his community’s support.
A boy wrestles with seeing a monster who shouldn’t be real and with finding a sense of belonging.
Morsh’s reputation for once having been home to monsters forms the heart of the town’s booming tourism market. For 11-year-old Dawz, these supposedly mythical creatures are a painful reminder of the monster-obsessed mom who left him and younger sister Jayla to be adopted by their maternal uncle, Pop. (The children have different fathers, but their mother refused to disclose their identities.) Dawz dreams of winning a local baking competition, like Pop before him; baking is a special passion they share. But when he discovers Mim, a small monster with gray fur and purple scales living in his bedroom closet, he worries that makes him weird—like his mom. Mim is struggling with changes, too. She doesn’t remember a time before the closet, but she’s growing larger—and despite her trepidation, she is pulled to explore the world outside this dark, dusty haven. Dawz and Mim discover they have a bond, and they both struggle with learning to accept themselves. In this thoughtful story that deals with serious topics but is lightened by humor, Krossing expertly navigates what it’s like to be young and unsure of yourself through the protagonists’ character arcs. Jayla and Dawz have different skin tones from one another and Pop, who is cued White; their multiracial family is described as “a mismatched crew.”
A moving tale of learning to accept yourself, flaws and all.
The question of what does and doesn’t make a monster is front and center in this dark yet earnest tale by Krossing (One Tiny Bubble). Eleven-year-old Dawz and his younger sister Jayla live with their uncle in Morsh, a town that was once purportedly the home of monsters, which haven’t been sighted in years—except by Dawz. Though no one else can see or hear it, he knows that within his closet dwells a small monster with gray fur and purple scales named Mim, who is not fond of the boy who lives outside her abode. But Mim develops an appreciation for Dawz and his family when she overhears them reading aloud from books. Their tentative coexistence is upended when Mim—who grows physically larger and exponentially more curious by the day—emerges from the closet on a mission to uncover the magic of books. Krossing employs an omniscient third-person perspective to offer insight into both Mim’s and Dawz’s innermost thoughts. With realistically limned characters, the author explores pensive themes surrounding acceptance of oneself and of others to deliver a sensitive rumination on personhood and kindness. Context clues imply racial diversity among the human characters. Ages 10–up.
Eleven-year-old Dawz is haunted by memories of his mother. He doesn’t want to be like his mother who saw monsters before she disappeared. He wants to be normal like his uncle who adopted him and his sister. Yet, a niggling prickle at the edge of his left eye tells him there is a monster in his bedroom closet. And he is not wrong. The monster’s name is Mim and she is smaller than a bear cub. Mim has her own problem. She is lonely. She peaks through the keyhole to spy on Dawz but is afraid to show herself to him. Her favorite time is bedtime when the grownup comes to read to Dawz and his little sister. To Mim, books are magical. The words build stories that live inside her and keep her company. And Mim is determined to find out how the magic of a book works. This well-written middle grade novel explores what it means to be a family, and why we try to hide the monster within us from those we love and who love us. Throughout the book both Dawz and Mim struggle with wanting everything to be normal. Dawz worries that his mismatched family is not a normal family and therefore not a real family. He worries that no one will love him if they see he is part monster because he hates his mother. Mim names him Dawz the Horrible. Is he? When Dawz learns that his family and friends still love him even when they can see he is part monster, he learns to accept himself and takes a first step toward forgiving his mother. Highly recommended for classroom read aloud or as a personal reading choice this is a sometimes touching sometimes funny story of self-acceptance and the magic of words.
Ages: 10 and up
Page count: 246
51/2 x 81/4