Title: Sophie and the Sea Monster
Author: Don Gillmor
Illustrator: Michael Martchenko
Publisher: North Winds Press (An imprint of Scholastic Canada Ltd.)
Word Count: 775 (approximately)
Summary: The sea monster living under Sophie’s bed has almost as many fears as Sophie herself. In order to get him out, she’ll have to help him overcome them, and maybe manage to overcome a few of her own while she’s at it.
I knew I wanted to look at this book, but I had a hard time picking which story element to examine with it. I could have picked Theme (overcoming fears), Dialogue (some of the dialogue really makes the characters), or a few of the others, but eventually I decided to go with Character.
Sophie is a great character. Gillmor sets out her personality by beginning the book with a list of the things Sophie fears:
“Sophie worried about wearing the right clothes to school. She worried about big dogs, bats, thunderstorms, snapping turtles, and losing her homework.” Notice how he starts with a very reasonable “worry” – wearing the right clothes, and builds to other pretty reasonable fears: bats, dogs and thunderstorms are all pretty scary. Snapping turtles are also scary, but I don’t know how often you’d encounter one. And losing her homework, well, that could be bad.
But then he continues on page two, “She wondered what held the moon up and she worried that it would fall on her house. She worried about everything all the time. But most of all, Sophie worried that there was a sea monster under her bed.” In just three sentences Gillmor has turned Sophie from a regular girl with reasonable fears to a neurotic, but cute, kid.
By giving Sophie some outrageous fears, Gillmor makes her more likeable and child-like, but it also gives the reader a sense of superiority, which creates sympathy for Sophie. (My four-year-old shares a lot of Sophie’s fears – including big dogs and monsters – but she knows the moon won’t fall down on her head, and some of her enjoyment of the book comes from having fewer fears than Sophie.)
I love the way Gillmor then makes one of those irrational (if common) fears real – there really is a sea monster under Sophie’s bed – and it’s there because it’s scared of more things than Sophie is! As Sophie tries to help the sea monster overcome his fears so he can move out of her room, she learns to overcome her own fears, growing as a character, and solving her own problem.
This is a really cute book. I love Martchenko’s illustrations (as always, you heard me rave about him when I analyzed the Munsch books). I also love the way Gillmor manages to make Sophie’s parents and brother come to life with only a line or two of dialogue (when my kids get older, I imagine my husband and I will sound just like Sophie’s parents).
My kids love the silly songs, and watching Sophie and the sea monster try to overcome their fears. If you haven’t read this one before, I suggest you check it out.