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Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge

Written and illustrated by Lita Judge
(Roaring Brook Press; $21.99, Ages 15-18)


Starred Review- School Library Journal


cover illustration from Lita Judge's Mary's Monster graphic novel


I find it fitting that on this night there is a dark storm blowing outside my window. I can almost imagine that I am writing this review of Mary’s Monster by candle light in the mid 1800s. But I’m not. I’m sitting here at my compu​t​er preparing to describe to you a story that has haunted me since I first saw the cover of this gripping YA graphic biography about renowned English novelist, Mary Shelley.

Prologue spread from Mary's Monster by Lita Judge
Interior artwork from Mary’s Monster written and illustrated by Lita Judge, Roaring Brook Press ©2018.

Author/illustrator Lita Judge has woven an impossibly romantic and tragic story. From the chilling prologue, written by the monster himself, to the fascinating back matter, this is an extraordinary account of the life of Mary Shelley, creator of the literary classic, Frankenstein. Judge’s writing is lyrical and yet full of history and meaning. To know that the story is based on historical documents, such as Mary Shelley’s writings, makes it all the more fascinating. The sparse and poetic text, combined with the beautifully haunting black and white artwork, invites the teen reader to think deeply and become immersed in Shelley’s world.

Interior spread by Lita Judge from Mary's Monster
Interior artwork from Mary’s Monster written and illustrated by Lita Judge, Roaring Brook Press ©2018.

The reader is subtlely but thoroughly introduced to the social and political influences that shaped Mary Shelley’s beliefs and choices. Lita Judge masterfully unfolds the events of Shelley’s life, from the abuse and loss she suffered in childhood, to her forbidden love affair with a married man, to the madness of opium addiction, to her experiences as a woman in an oppressive society. In all of this, Judge shows us Shelley’s inspiration. Mary Shelley’s monster took shape as an expression of herself. Not just of her creative mind, but also of her struggles, her nightmares, her fears for the future, and her desire to heal her pain.

The Dead Back to Life int. spread from Lita Judge's Mary's Monster
Interior artwork from Mary’s Monster written and illustrated by Lita Judge, Roaring Brook Press ©2018.

I applaud Lita Judge for her thoroughness and her gift of storytelling. In what is the 200th anniversary year of Frankenstein’s first publication, Judge’s timely and relevant book belongs alongside Shelley’s Gothic horror tale as an ideal companion guide to understanding her monster and her world, as well as ours.

As Judge writes at the end of Mary’s story, “We can affect the lives of generations to come if we are brave enough to open the wings of our imagination and create!”

And so you have, Lita Judge, and we thank you!

See Judge at the Tucson Festival of Books/
University of Arizona
1200 East University Boulevard
Tucson, AZ 85719

Saturday, March 10, 2018
1:00 PM

More on Lita Judge:
Author Blog
Author Web Site


Here’s a link to another recent YA book review.










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YA & MG Authors Share Their Stories Part I

This past weekend I attended a Mother & Daughter book event at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse in La Canada, CA. I sat and listened to seven presentations by some of the most interesting and personable women writers for young readers.  Now that I have deciphered my notes I can share what I learned with you. If you happen to be in the San Gabriel Valley on Feb 7, don’t miss the one year anniversary of the bookshop’s new location. You’ll be able to take advantage of sale prices as low as 70% off, and enjoy a delicious beverage as well.

Let’s start with local author Kathy McCullough. First you’ll want to visit her wonderful website to get more details than my brief ones here, but suffice it to say I was impressed by her candor, and clever ideas. She has easily transitioned from screenwriter to kids and teen writer and I am certain we can expect to hear more exciting developments about her blossoming career in the months ahead.

Her new book from Random House/Delacorte Press is called Don’t Expect Magic and introduces us to Delaney Collins, f.g. And if you are wondering what the f.g. stands for, it’s fairy godmother, but “without the pink and sparkly” says McCullough. It so happens that Delaney is not at all happy about having to help people, and to be specific, a certain boy she likes, but she’s basically got no choice since she was born with the f.g. gene. I don’t want to give too much away since I’ll be reviewing the book soon and can’t wait!

While the book is billed as a YA novel, McCullough’s heard from delighted readers in 5th and 6th grade who have become quite demanding in the diversity of their subject matter. Parents will feel comfortable allowing their middle grade readers to pick up Don’t Expect Magic because it’s not full of foul language or questionable content. The book combines a little bit of fantasy with a little bit of humor so check out the trailer now and get a taste of the good time in store for you. You can click here for a selection of links where you can buy the book.

The best news is that there will be a sequel featuring Delaney’s rival fairy godmother which promises to be another feel good novel to keep you turning the pages. And what’s McCullough doing now? She’s working away on yet another YA novel so I recommend fans follow her website to keep up-to-date on all her appearances and publication dates.

Please join me here next week to meet more of the charming women novelists I spoke with at the event. Then, make tracks to your favorite book shop to purchase the stack of books I’ve covered. I promise they will keep you enlightened, amused and entertained for hours!

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