Ms. Ila’s Middle Grade Reading Club: The Monster Who Wasn’t by T. C. Shelley

What if you are someone who is totally different from everyone that you know?  What do you do?

Imp, aka Sam, is not the same as the monsters he accompanies in the dark depths of the Earth.  He is not sure what he is, but he is sure that he is in danger amongst the rest of the monsters because he is different.

While escaping the dark depths of the underworld, he makes new friends: the gargoyles who also don't quite fit in with the underworld monsters; the angel who keeps company with the gargoyles, and the Kavanagh family, who have a direct link with his birth!

Meanwhile, he starts to think that he might not be a monster.  In fact, Thunderguts the Ogre seems to think that he can use Imp/Sam for a different purpose that might not be quite so good for Imp/Sam!  He wants Imp/Sam, to destroy the Vorpal Sword, which contains the souls of humans!  Touching the sword will immediately cause monster disintegration. Its presence has contained the monsters in the underworld.  The monsters would like to see it destroyed so that they can once again reign supreme on the surface world!

The Vorpal Sword is mentioned in the poem, "Jabberwocky," by Lewis Carroll in the novel, Through the Looking Glass.

Lewis Carroll's "The Jabberwocky"

"'TWAS brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe...."

Thus, begins this nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.

Of particular interest is the vorpal sword that contains the souls of humans, which is death-inducing for all monsters.  Thunderguts the Ogre, leader of the monsters, feels that if a human-like monster is ever born, it can touch the sword.  If you can touch the sword, you can destroy it!

The vorpal sword is mentioned in the Lewis poem as the instrument used to destroy the monster called the Jabberwocky.

The Library has a database that you can use when you want to dive more deeply into a poem: The Poetry and Short Story Reference Center.  You can search for the "Jabberwocky" in this database to learn more.

Finding Compassion for Imp/Sam

You, as the reader, can recognize that Imp/Sam is actually a human, and not a monster.  But how do you help someone like Imp/Sam, who needs someone to guide him in the right direction?

The Library has a booklist with this topic in mind: Middle Grade Novels That Address Mental Health With Compassion.

Other booklists for kids include:

  • Antiracist books
  • Understanding climate change
  • Stories from indigenous authors

Imp/Sam receives help from his gargoyle friend, Bladder.  Bladder, though unable to recognize that Imp/Sam is a human, helps Imp/Sam to escape back to the Kavanagh family, who Imp/Sam adores.

Questions to Consider:

  • Why do you think the combination of the sigh and the laugh created Imp/Sam?
  • If you were a monster, do you think you would understand why humans do the things that they do?
  • How do you think Colleen knew that Imp/Sam was "not all human?"
  • If you had never been in an automobile before, like Imp/Sam, what would you think of riding in one:  scary, fun, something else?
  • Why do the gargoyles also not fit in with the other monsters?
  • Do you think Imp/Sam will fit in with the Kavanaghs?

Next month, we will be reading a mystery book called Duet by Elise Broach.  Since it is getting close to the holidays, I always think of music!

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.