The fib I told the kids about monsters and dragons. Part one.

From the book Leonardo the Terrible Monster, Mo Willems. 
Facts about Leonardo
Willems' wonderful doodlicious blog.  Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Two separate things happen. Days apart. But when I reflect on them together, an awareness of incongruent-living emerges.

Thing one.

I read Mo Willems’ book Leonardo the Terrible Monster, an exceptional tale of an unexceptional monster, to preschool-aged kids. Golly, they’re captivated! 

Briefly, Willems’ book is about Leonardo who is terrible at being a monster. He can’t seem to frighten anyone. Determined to succeed, Leonardo researches and practices. Finally ready, he finds a struggling little boy and “scares the tuna salad” out of him.

Just before I read the part when Leonardo yells at the boy, Elijah, one of the kids I’m reading to, says pretty loudly, “I’m scared of monsters!” 

Elijah’s admission sets off a cacophony of frightening monster descriptions.

“There’s a snake monster under my bed. The eyes are yellow basketballs.”

“The dragon has a shark mouth and long legs, and it runs fast.”

“Mine is a hissing dragon.”

“My monster is a pirate with one eye and a peg leg who yells, ‘You know what happens when you have scurvy, don’t you? You walk the plank!’ And then I have to jump off the ship.”

I listen wide-eyed, nodding my head in understanding about such scariness.
I don't want to minimize their fear, name call the idea of monsters as silly, or disrespect their abilities to work with fear. 

Without thinking I say, “I know about a monster spray. One squirt makes monsters and dragons evaporate. I’ll bring it next week.” 

Immediately Elijah yells, “I want some!” Then, one by one, the rest of the children tell why they need this monster spray.

I learned about monster spray from a friend who saw it online. It’s a concoction of water infused with lavender drops, usually made by a grandmother like me with hopes of giving children and their parents restful sleep. A one-eyed monster image usually adorns a label declaring its efficiency at killing all monsters.

I decide to make some. I rationalize that pretending might work to rid pretend monsters. I buy a spray bottle and even write a label that has a drawing of a scared rabbit.

Thing two.

A big spider is in our living room. Though I like spiders and value their contribution to the cycle of life, they scare me. 

I think they got a bad rap in the appearance department. As afraid as I am, I’m also fascinated, read about them, and invite them into the classroom

I know that the spider in the living room is a baby tarantula. It's gentle, but scary! It might as well be a monster.

I head to the cupboard for a cup and then to my office for a piece of paper to capture the tarantula and carry it outdoors.

And then I stop dead in my tracks.

I realize that I'm encouraging the kids to use a harmful action to calm their fear. I don't want to encourage spraying. I wouldn't spray that tarantula with pesticides. And now I know I wouldn't spray monsters. (Plus there's another aspect: monsters are not physically real. Monsters exist in the mind. Spraying is pretending.)

I get some guidance from Mo Willem’s about how to talk with the children.

It’s near the end of the book, just after Leonardo the monster scares the little boy. He notices his feelings. Leonardo sees the fear in the boy’s face.

Scaring people turns out to not feel so hot.

And that’s when monster Leonardo shifts his thinking and realizes that he has other choices. Like this one: he could be a really wonderful friend to the boy.

Which gets me thinking.

Kids are smart. Real smart.

They know how to reference, transfer what they learn, and associate. I want to impart peaceful ways of living and responding to life experiences. I believe they're capable of working with their thoughts. 

I'm going to see if they can make their monsters their friends. But first I have to tell them the truth about the monster spray.

To be continued tomorrow.


  1. Great post Susan! My kids LOVE this book! This post made me laugh, because I am TERRIFIED of bugs, spiders, critters, etc., and I scream when I see one, and it drives my husband crazy because he does not want our children to learn my fear of bugs. To me, they ARE monsters! If I wasn't so afraid, I'd probably spray them...

  2. I know, Sarah! Mo Willems knows just what kids love to hear.

    Wait until you hear what the kids said when I told them the truth. I'll post that tomorrow. They are so smart. And brave! Thanks for your kind comment and visit.

  3. We have Nightmare in my Closet ( which is one of my childhood books. Ansel likes to read it and I sometimes struggle with the fact that the boy shoots the nightmare with his pop-gun. But when he does, he sees that the nightmare is hurt and crying, so the boy invites him to curl up in bed with him. I always feel better about the middle because the end brings out the reality of that "fear response" we all have to deal with.

    1. Kacey, something I love about being with the kids is when anyone is hurt, they are right there to comfort. I don't know Nightmare in my Closet. It sounds very much like the lessons in Willem's book. I'm amazed that the kids immediately empathize. Your dear boy Ansel teaches me so much. I'm grateful to spend time with him.

  4. Great post Aunt Susan! We too love this book. Lucky for us, Maxwell is confident that he "can beat anything up" which includes a current list of all dragons, dinosaurs, monsters, bad guys, sharks, lions, tigers and jaguars. His confidence has allowed him to proclaim that he is "never ever scared." His statement has been dis-proven during lightning storms however to-date, we have never had to clear the room of monsters! Can't wait to read tomorrows post. xoxo

    1. Sara, Maxwell is so brave! He is already facing so many fears. Lightening is one big monster that fills the house, not just the bedroom, so I understand the challenge. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. I love that you're here. xo