The first bedtime story I remember? Hmm. It’s a bit silly and not particularly mythic, but it’s probably the classic Sesame Street book called The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone, starring none other than that lovable blue dude Grover. The entire story is built around ever-mounting, meta-tastic suspense. There’s a monster at the end of the book, of course. And on each page, Grover tries to stop you in between frantic calls of warning. He directly addresses the reader and interacts with the book, trying his utmost to protect you from the monster. On one page, he’s attempting to secure the pages with rope, then he’s hammering planks into the pages. As you progress through the book, his work is destroyed and he’s left sitting in the rubble. His efforts mount with each page turn and eventually he’s building a brick wall in one final, desperate bid to stop you from turning the page. And then of course you do. And on the last page there is only Grover, and he comes to the realization that it was only himself. He was that was the monster at the end of the book. It terrified me as a pre-literate toddler — even after several re-reads. Because sure, maybe it was harmless old Grover the time before, and the time before that, and all times that I could remember. Because maybe this time it would be different, and the monster would be real and dangerous and unstoppable. And then poor Grover would just shake his head sadly — he did try to warn us, after all. It’s a pretty existential entry for a television tie-in picture book! And as I typed this up, I totally heard the voice of Werner Herzog in my head.
This one’s a part of my history. My mother used a splendid Grover-voice while reading it. Attention Werner Herzog: can you best my mother’s reading? I bet you can’t. I challenge you to try.
For those of you who enjoy glowing pages, this particular book has become an app.