Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody
by Ludworst Bemonster (Rick Walton, illus. by Nathan Hale)
Feiwel and Friends Fiends, 2012
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!


  1. I loved, loved, loved Madeline as a little girl. We had a record, yes, a record, of someone, maybe Carol Channing reading it, and we listened to it over and over and over again. I have to find this one!

  2. Love this idea! I think my 4th graders would love to learn about parody.

  3. Perfect did I mention that I am thrilled that you are teaching 5th grade!

  4. Love this idea--why didn't I think of it! I just put this on reserve, as well as the original, to refresh my memory. Since we have a Madeleine (diff spelling), we did receive several Madeline books when she was a baby. I actually really like them--but it's been a while since I read any. Thanks, Mary Lee!

  5. Great way to illustrate parody! And to discuss plagiarism.

  6. What a great way to illustrate the differences between parody and plagiarism. Seems like a great compare and contrast as well.

  7. How great is this Mary Lee. And I loved your poem on your daily poem the other day. What a nice surprise. Congratulations!


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