A few weeks before the pandemic began, Michael messaged me. He’d drawn a blue monster with red lips and six pink feet! The monster was so cute that I was inspired to write a poem. I sent it off to Michael as a surprise.
Michael, who passed away in November, was a creative force. In no time, he sent me a second monster, and then a third and a fourth. It was impossible to keep up with his burst of artistic energy, but I tried. When I sat down with a monster and my poetry notebook, I learned to trust whatever thoughts and images showed up – just as my friend was doing with his drawings.
All through the pandemic, the monsters gave Michael and me a way to look at our fears and sadness, to express our silly sides and feelings of joy. I hope this book acknowledges that children are emotional creatures who “laugh and talk, play and cry, sing and dance… hide when they are afraid, cry when they hurt, kiss and hug when in love,” as Dr. Mercedes B. ter Maat says in her introduction to the book. And I hope that educators will use Welcome to Monsterville as a springboard for classroom conversations about sitting with strong emotions, rather than burying them or pushing them aside.
Laura Shovan is a children’s author, educator, and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. Her work appears in journals and anthologies for children and adults. Laura’s award-winning middle grade novels include The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, Takedown, and the Sydney Taylor Notable A Place at the Table, written with Saadia Faruqi. Laura is a longtime poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council. She serves on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts.