Friday, October 21, 2011

THE SHY CREATURES





By David Mack

(Feiwel and Friends, 2007)

When I was young, I spent a lot of time wondering about Bigfoot. What if he snuck into the basement? What if he jumped out of the forested area behind our cottage? Would he come out of hiding if people let him be the punter on the football team?

I also thought about the Loch Ness Monster. How old must it be? Did it send invisible vibrations to make photos blurry? Who decided it was a monster in the first place?

I never shared my thoughts. I was shy. Pathologically so. I thought Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and other questionable creatures made the world a more interesting place. Please, let them be real. Expressing my opinions was too risky though. My pasty face reddened all too easily.

Thank you, David Mack, for creating The Shy Creatures! The book dignifies shy people and mythical creatures alike. A shy girl sits in class, listening to classmates eagerly shout out what they want to be when they grow up. “‘I want to be a doctor to the shy creatures,’ said the shy girl. Or she would have if she wasn’t so shy.’” The class may have laughed and the teacher may have dashed the girl’s imagination, explaining that Bigfoot is not real. Maybe. Maybe not. When you’re shy, the maybes keep you quiet.

As the shy girl considers all the things she would do as a doctor tending to the Abominable Snowman, the Cyclops and Grey Aliens, David Mack reveals a creative, considerate and funny little girl, a personality as unknown (and perhaps as misunderstood) as the true character of the evasive mythical (or real?) creatures. Maybe all these seldom seen beasts are simply shy. (That is, if shyness is ever simple.) Mack finally asks, “[W]hat if the shy creatures just needed a friend?”

In a classroom or during bedtime reading, this book could be used as a springboard to thinking about a particular child’s own shyness. Imagine sharing a trait with a mighty dragon or a unicorn! It could also lead to discussion about how to chat with and include quiet peers in fun activities.

Mack’s art is reminiscent of that of Dr. Seuss, so much so that I expected The Grinch and little Cindy Lou Who to make a special appearance. I think many kids will be able to connect the art, a wonderful early opportunity to compare art and to talk about how iconic artists influence others.

Don’t overlook the shy creatures. I can think of a little girl and a young boy at my school whose eyes twinkle every time I read a story to their classes. They never share their ideas and reactions. I will make an extra effort to touch base with them on Monday. As for coaxing Bigfoot out from his hiding place, well, I’ll leave that for someone with a video-camera and a yearning for YouTube notoriety. I’m still too shy for that!

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