Friday, January 4, 2019


As a first round CYBILS judge in the poetry category, I've been reading lots and lots of poetry recently. For the past several years, this category has included novels in verse, and this year I think that genre comprised almost half the nominees. There was lots of really rich discussion around these books-- what comprises a novel in verse, should novels in verse be judged with anthologies, etc. The discussions are one of my favorite parts of being a judge-- such smart people.

To be perfectly honest, MARY'S MONSTER hung around on my TBR list for a while. I just was not that excited about reading a novel in verse about the creator of Frankenstein. I don't think I ever read the book, or even watched the movie of Frankenstein. Just not something that interested me.

BUT boy, oh boy, was I wrong! MARY'S MONSTER IS THE LIFE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Three hundred pages. And every single two-page spread includes a beautiful black and white watercolor painting.

Most people didn't believe Mary Shelley,
a teenage girl, unleashed me
a creature prowerful and murderous
enough to haunt their dreams. 

The expected girls to be nice
and obey the rules
They expected girls to be silent
and swallow punishment and pain.

She was cast out from society
because she loved a married man.
her friends reviled her.
Her father banished her from his home. 

But she did not hide.
She was not silenced.
She fought against the cruelty of human nature
bu writing. 

She conceived me.
I took shape like an infant,
not in her body, but in her heart,
growing from her imagination
till I was bold enough to climb out of the page
and into your mind. 

Now Mary is the ghost
whose bones have turned to dust
and it is I who live on

But hear her voice!
She wrote my story,
and now she will reach beyond the grave
and tell you her own. 

And a poem from the end of the book…

Byron has made public letters that prove
I wrote Frankenstein.
I am no longer anonymous!
I still choose a quiet life away from gossip
but I have a small circle of friends.
I edit Shelley's unpublished poems.
At last, readers see his genius
and allow the light he held up tot he world
to enter their hearts.

I survive. I keep writing.
I am scarred by my years with Shelley,
but he believed in me.
He inspired me to create.
And that gave me strength.

I have made terrible mistakes.
I must endure the knowledge that others
were swallowed by darkness because of my actions.
I have witnessed the wreckage of cruelty.
But unlike my father, I will never be consumed
by bitterness and anger.
I have released those monsters onto the page.

By creating, I keep faith alive
that we will learn someday
to cast aside cruelty and hatred
and build a just world
filled with love.

End notes include-
• More about Mary Shelley
• An Author's note- Lita Judge talks about her process, how she structured the novel, what she chose to include, etc. I wish more novels in verse included this. I think it would help people appreciate them as poetry.
• What Became of Them- Paragraph biographies about people included in the book,
• What Were They Reading

This is definitely worth reading. The content is pretty mature, but if I was a high school teacher, I'd be buying it for my classroom library!

Sylvia Vardell is hosting the year's first Poetry Friday Roundup. Hop over there to see what books next year's CYBILS judges might be reading.


Irene Latham said...

Thank you, Carol for your service to CYBILS, and for highlighting this title! Last summer I read a book called ROMANTIC OUTLAWS, about Mary Shelley and her mother, both of whom were writers, championed women's rights, and had their loves and monsters both. So I'd already been exposed to the material in MARY's MONSTER. I think what makes the book so accessible and lovely is the art. Beautiful!

Tabatha said...

What an enormous task you had as a Cybil's judge! Glad you enjoyed Mary's Monster. She's such an interesting, complex person.

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Thanks for helping with the judging, Carol - and for spotlighting this incredible book. I think we were all amazed by it.

Tara said...

Wow...what an amazing book this sounds to be, Carol. And bravo for stepping up to be a judge!

Linda B said...

Thanks for the Round One work, Carol. I've now read this, have had it a long time, and also read the recent picture book. It is an amazing story, made as real as Mary Shelley's book, Frankenstein, itself. The Second round is going to be tough!

Linda Mitchell said...

OK, I'm sold. Good job being a judge. I would also love the discussions and reading....I'm scared of how much time it would take! So, I'm very glad for your service to the poetry world. Great review.

Jone said...

So excited to be on the second round and reading this book. It looks like a contender.

Mary Lee said...

WOW. I'll definitely put this on my TBR list! Thanks for CYBIL-ing! I appreciate the time and effort.

Jean James said...

Wow it must be such hard work being a CYBIL judge. I love your review on Mary's Monster, and will have to put this on my reading list.

Kay said...

Thanks for sharing this book. Those spreads are breathtaking! And the extra stuff included sounds as good as the book. When I finally got around to listening to Frankenstein (audiobook), I was surprised. The story was not at all what I expected

Michelle Kogan said...

Thanks for sharing "Mary's Monster" Carol I was fascinated by it when I first saw reviews on the book and am even more so from your review, looking forward to reading it!