Cultural Perspectives on Familial Belonging
The Monster under the Bed: “Making” Boys in Picturebooks with Monsters
One of the most frequent themes in picturebooks with monsters is fear.1 While this observation is hardly surprising – monsters and fear are an associative pair, aren’t they? – it does in fact merit further attention. After all, children and monsters are usually allies, friends and intimates. This bond which reaches far beyond the realm of picturebooks is what distinguishes monsters in children’s culture from monsters in adults’ culture. Thus, picturebook stories about child characters who are afraid of monsters are not as self-evident as they might seem. And yet, they populate the bookshelves in libraries, book stores, and nurseries. A sceptic might immediately point to the invariably good ending of such “horror” stories for children. And is it not the case that monsters in picturebooks are always friendly and harmless? A sceptic might even go as far as to agree with German studies scholar and monsterologist Rolf Parr who claims that monsters in children’s fiction are not really figurations of monstrosity at all, but only temporary misrecognitions of actual “non-monsters” (Parr 26). If not right from the beginning, monsters’ fundamental benignity reveals itself no later than at the turning point of the story. Does it not? Contemplating the sixteen titles of my research corpus with the theme of fear, I suggest a more complex answer than “yes.”
One way to approach this question is to focus on the power inequality between children and adults, and to argue, as does Jackie Stallcup, that picturebooks about fear have an...
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