She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

by Lynn Fulton (Author) Felicita Sala (Illustrator)

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
A 2018 New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Books

On the bicentennial of Frankenstein, join Mary Shelley on the night she created the most frightening monster the world has ever seen.

On a stormy night two hundred years ago, a young woman sat in a dark house and dreamed of her life as a writer. She longed to follow the path her own mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, had started down, but young Mary Shelley had yet to be inspired.

As the night wore on, Mary grew more anxious. The next day was the deadline that her friend, the poet Lord Byron, had set for writing the best ghost story. After much talk of science and the secrets of life, Mary had gone to bed exhausted and frustrated that nothing she could think of was scary enough. But as she drifted off to sleep, she dreamed of a man that was not a man. He was a monster.

This fascinating story gives readers insight into the tale behind one of the world's most celebrated novels and the creation of an indelible figure that is recognizable to readers of all ages.

"Eye-catching artwork and engaging storytelling give this biography of a fascinating woman even more appeal."--Booklist

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School Library Journal

Gr 3-5--The bicentenary of Frankenstein has generated a lot of attention for the origin story of its author, Mary Godwin Shelley. With this title, Fulton demonstrates the challenges of presenting literary history for younger readers. Sala's illustrations convey the gothic tone of the source material, complete with spooky trees, jagged lightning, and Shelley's famously aquiline profile. Fulton has the harder task of translating Shelley's Romantic ideas of inspiration "like a bolt of lightning" into the rhetoric of empowerment. Although "Mary wants to become a writer," she is lonely, plagued by writer's block, and sidelined by egotistical male poets. Overhearing Lord Byron and Percy Shelley's talk of reanimated corpses, Shelley poses two crucial questions: "Wouldn't it be...more terrifying, to be such a creature" and, after dreaming of a monster, "What did it want from her?" These questions of identification and purpose are crucial, but unresolved in the narrative. Statements like "her mother was right! A woman's writing could be just as important as a man's" feel off-center, because, unlike Frankenstein's creature, this version of Shelley never raises her voice against her oppressors or triumphantly presents her act of defiance. Indeed, readers leave her picking up her pen, before her novel fully comes to life. VERDICT Though slight on biography, this is a satisfyingly creepy take on a literary genius and the power of transforming nightmares. An additional purchase.--Katherine Magyarody, Texas A&M University, College Station

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Inspired by Mary Shelley's introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, this imagining of the classic's creation acquaints readers to a true story of literary ingenuity. Two hundred years ago, a young Mary, dreaming of becoming a writer, visited the poet Lord Byron on the shore of Lake Geneva with her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and other friends. A competition to write the best ghost story, a conversation about electricity being used to reanimate a frog, and a haunting dream spur Shelley's imagination until she finds her ghost story and sets about writing it. Moody illustrations by Sala, in jewel tones and shades of gray, mimic the atmosphere of Shelley's best-known novel. A note from debut author Fulton explains included details that are not directly noted in the source material. This is a useful introduction to Shelley and a valuable touchstone for discussions about persistence and the creative process. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Lynn Fulton
Lynn Fulton loves reading and writing so much that she got a PhD in English. She has worked as an insurance investigator, middle school teacher, and writing tutor, and has had numerous hobbies besides writing books, such as painting pictures, designing T-shirts, practicing German, trying to learn Spanish, and playing terrible piano. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and teenage son, plus a dog, cat, and bunny.

Felicita Sala is a self-taught illustrator who studied philosophy at the University of Western Australia. She has worked on several animation projects, but her passion is making picture books. Her previous books include Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez and I Don't Draw, I Color! by Adam Lehrhaupt. Felicita lives in Rome with her husband and their daughter. Visit her online at Follow her on Twitter at @felicitasala and Instagram at @felicita.sala.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date
September 20, 2018
BISAC categories
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
JNF023000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Girls & Women
JNF063000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Books & Libraries
Library of Congress categories

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