Friday, February 27, 2009

Review: The Monster Garden by Vivien Alcock

I was reading The Monster Garden around the same time I was reading Bruce Coville, and loved it just as much. (I reviewed one of his books here.) It's a kids' book, although I'm not sure what age the protagonist is exactly (12ish?), originally published in 1988 and featuring a variation on the "secret pet" story. This was the second book to ever make me cry, after Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.

It'd been a long time since I'd read or thought about this, and I didn't remember a lot of it so it was almost like reading it again for the first time. I cried again, and I loved it just as much as before if not even more.

Frankie Stein is the daughter of a research scientist. She accidentally creates a baby monster with unwanted cells from her father's laboratory, which first scares her and then starts endearing itself to her (and the rest of us.) She enlists a girl who's good with babies/animals to help her take care of it and keep it secret, so that no evil scientists can take it away. But the monster keeps growing...

My favorite thing about this book is the way Monnie, the monster, is treated by the author. I love him/her/it to death, but I'm never told "here, you're supposed to love this." My second favorite part is the relationship between Frankie and Monnie and how it grows, how well I come to understand them over the course of the story.

A lot of basic kid themes are present, including sibling rivalry and the special dynamic friendship has at that age. (And the friendship subplot is one of the most believable things in the book. You'll know what I mean when you read it, it's not what you're usually fed in these books.) I really like Frankie, and how practical she is with herself even while she's having a completely emotional and impractical reaction to something. She's the kind of person I'd like to be my friend, and when I'm reading The Monster Garden it's like she is. Also, I love Alf.

This is Vivien Alcock's absolute best book, and suitable for all ages. Unfortunately a lot of her books weren't this good, a lot of them had weak endings as I recall, but the other one I liked was The Mysterious Mr. Ross, and Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville is the first book I'd recommend to go with this The Monster Garden.

Buy The Monster Garden


  1. This book sounds interesting. I am going to see if my library has it, read it and then see if one of my girls would like to read it as well.
    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

  2. Great! I hope your library has it. Personally, I think it'd be worth buying... The copy I've read (both times) is a library copy but I want one of my own. Also some kind of plush monster, but I don't think they have those... sigh.

  3. Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  4. I have to do a book report of this book 4 school. This sitem helped me to get ideas. Colossal ! Words mean a lot4 me !


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