Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John
Illustrations by Bob Shea
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Floyd Peterson is so much more than shaggy purple fur and pointy monster teeth — why can’t people just see him for him?
This book had so much potential. Labels and names are things that we often deal with in our society. It sucks to be called or lumped into a group that you don't like or don't want to be a part of. It is also a normal human reaction to want to categorize people. Children are doing this almost subconsciously, trying to make sense of this strange world they are a part of.
When first introduced, this monster insists that he is not, in fact, a monster. That label doesn't fit him. Except it does. The illustrations quickly show you that this is a rather unreliable narrator who, despite his protestations, really is a monster. He is the standard definition of a monster and fully deserves the label. This did make the book funny, but I so desperately wanted there to be a twist in the end. Where we discover that despite meeting almost all the definitions he doesn't actually scare children, only eats other monsters, or has a propensity towards giving candy to the kids he scares. Instead, this is a story about a monster, who claims he isn't, but actually is. It is a cute Halloween book, but it could have been so much more.
The real problem is that the book promised to be more and wasn't. If you want to talk about stereotyping and bucking stereotypes then the "monster" has to actually buck those stereotypes. He can't just have a normal-ish name and dislike being labeled, he needs to actually change the stereotype. Imagine if this story was about a person who didn't like being called ghetto or white trash, but then perfectly defined all of your expectations of those terms. No one would be okay with that. Just because it is a monster does not give it a pass.