Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody
by Ludworst Bemonster (Rick Walton, illus. by Nathan Hale)
review copy provided by the publisher
Yesterday, I read aloud Mo Willems' Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs: As Retold by Mo Willemsand we talked about parody -- taking a well-known book or music video and redoing it in a new (and usually funny) way. One canny student asked, "Is that legal?" Knowing how we drill the evils of plagiarism, I can understand why she asked.
I think it will be easier for all of the students to understand just how parody works when I share The original Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, followed by Frankenstein by Ludworst Bemonster.
(In fact, I had to buy Madeline so that I could fully appreciate the humor in Frankenstein. Somehow, I missed this childhood classic, either as a child or up until this point in my adulthood. Shameful!)
Reading both books in the same sitting will allow my students to see that the author of Frankenstein does not copy any of the exact words of Madeline. What makes the book so funny is the way the illustrator imitates the style of the illustrations (right down to the fake Caledecott Honor/CaldeNOT Horror medal on the cover), and the way the author imitates the rhythm, rhyme and basic plot line of the story. It is parody rather than plagiarism because the author made something entirely new -- he did not copy the work of the original. The author of Frankenstein depends on the reader knowing Madeline in order to really "get" the humor in his book.
In Frankenstein, "In a creepy old castle/all covered with spines,/lived twelve ugly monsters in two crooked lines" who are wrangled through the town at midnight, scaring folks, by Miss Devel. Miss Devel is awakened one night, whispering, "Something is not right," and when she checks in on the little monsters, she finds that Frankenstein has lost his head. Off he goes to the hospital, and when he wakes up, he finds he has a new head and two new screws in his neck. (Now you know where those screws came from!)
Madeline and Frankenstein -- a pair of books not to be missed this Halloween season!