Overcoming the monster—immediately I think of Jack and the Beanstalk, Beauty and the Beast, and Little Red Riding. Monsters definitely wave a flag in many novels for children and young adults too, tales where reader bite their nails to the quick and/or takes a torch under the bedclothes to keep the nasties out.

For some reason, the thought of monsters took me back to my primary school in the nineteen fifties. The children sat in order of cleverness, determined by the number of sums ticked and spellings remembered in the weekly tests. Every day we had to face Miss Woolcock. There’s almost a tremor in my voice as I say that. Oh, the cold fear she could inject into a class of nine-year-olds. Let me tell you about the day I made a blot on my book, and then, trembling, tried to rub it away. Grey-faced, I nearly lost control of my bladder in the abusive torrent, after which Miss Woolcock snapped at me to get to the bottom of the class. I am sure I almost died.

Now, years later, I can see what a tortured woman she must have been. Maybe she’d lost her fiancé in the war, or her parents; maybe she’d been trapped under rubble for hours on end. Maybe she was of a nervous disposition and spent years frightened of pain and death and loneliness. Being a teacher she had to deal with children, maybe knowing that she herself would never be a mother.

Perhaps we all have potential monsters waiting to get us when something goes wrong in our lives. Monsters like anger, jealousy, fear, pride, intolerance, meanness… shall I go on? Do you agree that It’s always easier to see the monster in other people than it is to identify and face our own? What if we love overcoming the monster stories so much because we want to overcome our own monsters?

I hope Miss Woolcock grew to understand herself as the years went by, and didn’t go to her grave still filled with bitterness and rage.

I think I might have a story coming on!

Frog: (gulps) Hiding? Well, a frog does have a vivid imagination, you know.

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