Review of Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein and She Made a Monster

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein
by Linda Bailey; illus. by Júlia Sardà
Primary    Tundra    56 pp.    g
8/18    978-1-77049-559-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-77049-561-6    $10.99

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
by Lynn Fulton; illus. by Felicita Sala
Primary    Knopf    40 pp.    g
9/18    978-0-525-57960-1    $17.99
Library ed.  978-0-525-57961-8    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-0-525-57962-5    $10.99

Two hundred years ago, twenty-year-old Mary Shelley (1797–1851) anonymously published the first modern science-fiction novel: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. Shelley supposedly first conceived of her mad scientist and his creation two years before, on a sleepless night after being challenged by her friend Lord Byron to write a ghost story. However, she was heavily influenced by a life already full of experiences, scientific interest, heartbreak, and scandal, the last of which both picture books mostly gloss over for their young audiences. In their respective accounts, Bailey and Fulton each relate that seminal evening and weave in formative events that possibly helped inspire Shelley’s masterpiece. Bailey’s more in-depth volume is framed by her subject’s penchant for dreaming, and serves as a solid introduction to Shelley. Bailey’s readers will likely linger over Sardà’s decorative watercolor and digital illustrations in a macabre style featuring sharp-edged, ghostly-looking characters. In contrast, Fulton excels at capturing the spirit of Shelley’s novel. Like a scary story told around a campfire, Fulton’s short, descriptive passages and occasional fictionalized dialogue set the mood, build suspense, and drive her focused retelling of that night. Nicely complementing Fulton’s tale are Sala’s striking watercolor, ink, and colored-pencil illustrations, which display a gothic sensibility, with angular features and a dark color palette containing shocks of white for dramatic effect. [See this issue's cover.] Each book concludes with an author’s note providing sources and containing additional information about Shelley’s life and her famous novel.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Cynthia K. Ritter
Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is managing editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons University.

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