May 03, 2023Monster Legacies and Lessons

I need to get out more … ever since I started writing about monsters, I’ve got monsters on the brain …

While strolling through the grocery store one day I caught myself unconsciously singing in my head … it was the Monster Mash!

I thought that was funny and I haven’t made any grand effort to make it go away. There are worse songs that can get stuck in your noggin … at least this one is fun. Just remember, if you ever observe somebody in public smiling and talking to themselves … they might be nuts or they might be an artist or a writer! Creatives have no problem amusing themselves, and creative brains run 24/7.

Anyway, having that song stuck in my head conjured up good memories of all the old hokey monster and sci-fi movies I grew up with. Monsters like The Blob and The Creature from the Black LagoonFrankenstein, werewolves and vampires, and the most hokey of all, giant ants in the movie, THEM!

All the old movies look ridiculous now in our age of computer-generated graphics. While it’s a real treat to be able to look up these treasures on the internet, only the die-hard film and sci-fi movie buffs enjoy them now. But sixty years ago, kids like me were watching space movies with rockets on strings, and we wondered and marveled at the thought of ever going into outer space. Today, kids take space travel for granted. For them, it’s just a matter of time until it happens. But today’s movie images are so fantastic, that actual outer space may be a big let down. Reality is a bit humdrum and routine, which is why we love movies so much. Movies are larger than life. Like books, movies take you places you could never actually go.

That’s a good lesson for picture book drawers/writers … make it larger than life, and take your reader places where they couldn’t otherwise go. Infuse your stories and characters with life and energy. Grab the reader’s attention and draw them into the experience. That’s how to make your books have real impact on readers. Those are the books they’ll still be thinking about when they are all grown up with children of their own.

Those old movies that I love so much really do look hokey next to today’s movies. Part of their charm is the fact that they were the fun beginnings of the movies we have today. Time passed and the writing, acting and filming improved with experience and technology, but even so, they fired-up my childhood imagination, and I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for those old, hokey films.

So while I’m on a monster theme this month, I want to share some of my personal favorites … maybe we can learn something from these old films that can be applied to picture book creating. Mostly, I just want to have fun remembering … time marches on and it won’t be long until these movies fade away into oblivion. Thank goodness for the internet!

If you decide to look these up to watch, screen them yourself before showing them to your kids. Despite their hokey-ness, they might still be disturbing to younger children. Especially the first one I’ll tell about next week.

And don’t worry if watching or reading about these causes your own mind to drift toward the macabre and fearsome … just sing a few rounds of the Monster Mash … you’ll cheer right up!

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  • kathy says:
    2023-05-03, 20:38:35
    I remember The Creature.... I saw it as a child and it SCARED me! Viewed it again as an adult and thought it was silly. Perspective....
    In the May 10th blog I talk about the original 1963 version of "The Haunting" ... I'm all grown up, but it still gives me the willies!!- Sherry A Mitcham
  • Cooley Dixie says:
    2023-05-03, 17:28:53
    I love it and The Blob comes to mind.
    Thanks for the memories.
    Good memories!- Sherry A Mitcham
  • BILL says:
    2023-05-03, 09:25:59
    ... it was a graveyard smash ...
    it caught on in a flash ...
    it was the MONSTER MASH!!- Sherry A Mitcham