9 Dec 2009 8:18 am   //   Filed under: Art, Books

The monster at the end of this blog

I’ve been thinking about my parents. Last week I turned 30. When my mom and dad were 30, they were providing for and raising a 10-month-old and a 3-year-old (me). By contrast, my biggest responsibility is taking care of a cat.

This week I read that Sesame Workshop is publishing some free e-books for children. One of them is “The Monster at the End of This Book,” first printed in 1971. I have dim memories of this book being read to me by my mom.

According to one article, this is the best-selling Sesame Street book of all time. When I read it this week—probably for the first time in 25 years—it struck a powerful chord of nostalgia. It’s a hoot, with funny illustrations of lovable, furry, old Grover freaking out about the supposed monster on the last page. The more pages you turn, them more uptight he gets. At the end of the book, he realizes there’s no reason to be scared—the only monster is himself. Go check it out.

All books for young children are secretly books for young parents. “The Monster at the End of This Book” is great for kids, of course. It has bright pictures and simple words and the kind of humor that makes children laugh. Even as a kid, it’s empowering to bust through some arbitrary rules set up by someone with no authority over you. (“I would just like to see you TRY to turn this page,” Grover dares the reader.)

But I think adults might identify with Grover. Just like Grover, we’re scared of our own monsters. They’re the internal doubts telling us we’re flawed, incapable people. No matter how good we try to be, our worst qualities will prevail. Horror of our own creation lurks just out of sight. Part of growing up is finding the confidence to face down the monsters.

Maybe I’m over-thinking it, but I can imagine my 30-year-old parents reading this book to my brother and me and getting that message out of it.