Monday, February 20, 2012

Reevaluating My Own First Book Love

On Friday, while thinking about books, first book loves and all of the great stories I have come across so far from the people who have participated in the book love project, I suddenly craved more stories. Since I had also just signed up for a book exchange on Reddit (read about that coolness in my post at Word of the Nerd), I recalled that I was part of a pretty cool book community there and decided to ask my "big question": What was your first book love? of the reddit community. The discussion was amazing, so much fun and, most important of all, enlightening to me.

You see, while engaging in discussions with lots of other people about their first book love I was reminded of my own: The Monster at the End of this Book! When another redditor claimed it as their first book love, I was instantly swept away to multiple memories of laughs, rereads and sharing the book with my little brother. I responded on reddit with the following comment:
In all honesty I keep wondering if I should rewrite my own first book love story and write about this book. The only problem is that I don't readily recall when I was introduced to it, how I was introduced to it or when I first read it. I simply remember this book always being around, always reading it, always laughing and loving it. I cherished my original oversized copy of this book until it was destroyed in a flood we had here in 2010. If I EVER see the oversized version of this book again, I am grabbing it up. My husband just recently bought me the sequel to this book that came out recently pairing Grover with Elmo. Also a great book, but there is nothing quite like Grover laying bricks across the page.
It was part of the redditor's response that really struck home to me next:
It was like my little brain's Sixth Sense--the twist was just mind-blowing.
That was it! Or at least part of it... Not only was this book visually engaging, about a character I knew and loved, but, on top of all of that it had this wonderful twist in the end. It was great storytelling in all of its simplicity. Jon Stone, like any good mystery writer, had not held back anything, all the clues were there. In fact, everything was right on the cover, we readers needed to look no further. However, in our fascination with the lovable and furry Grover we could not not see what was plainly before us. As Mike Smollin's illustrations distracted us from the obvious page after page, our curiosity drove us to keep turning against all of Grover's pleas because, as scary as the conclusion might be, we thought, If Grover can do it, so can I.

I will not spoil the ending for those of you who have not yet had the joy of reading this book. I will, instead, share the book with you through the wonderful magic of YouTube. However, before I leave you with this techie treat I will say that there is some real reader magic missing in this translation. For the purists, I highly recommend that you find this book in its tangible form to read and turn the pages with your own fingers and hands. I will tell you personally I don't think anything made me feel so powerful as a child as my ability to pull down each of Grover's constructs. I believed him when he said I was strong.

So, I'm pretty sure this is it. This is my earliest book memory and, as both my parents have passed on, I have no one to ask if there is one that I connected with before it. However, as I said on reddit, I don't remember the first time I read this book. I don't recall if it was read to me, with me or by me on my first read. What I do know is that this book is in my forever memory, as if I never lived without it. I know that when I saw it float by me in my basement flood I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I know that I can still read this book today and capture a moment of childhood within its pages.

I don't think I could ask much more from a book. Therefore I have a couple of thank yous to dole out:
Thank you Jon Stone, not only for this book, but for all of your work on Sesame Street.
Thank you Mike Smollin for drawing such a lovable Grover and such believable brick walls.
Thank you Grover, for being just as scared as the rest of us, and showing us how silly that can be!

What are your impressions of The Monster at the End of This Book?
How do you feel about the read aloud videos like the one here in comparison to a tangible book?

If you would like to share your story of your first book love, e-mail me at!

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