A new publication by Dr Mary-Louise Maynes, Senior Lecturer at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU), will explore how the use of monsters in children’s story books can actually be beneficial in managing fear.

Monsters make frequent appearances in bedtime stories for children, where they represent a range of common childhood fears, in particular those associated with night-time. In the publication, titled ‘'Monsters at bedtime: managing fear in bedtime picture books for children", the role and nature of ‘bedtime’ monsters is explored with reference to picture book examples from 20th to 21st century children’s literature.

The ways in which they help children to manage fears are shown to be through a combination of both psychological and literary strategies, drawing on examples of English language picture books for children aged 2–5 years, but with a particular focus on three contemporary texts: Molly and the Night Monster; Bedtime for Monsters and The Wardrobe Monster.

It is argued that these texts often mirror coping strategies preferred by young children, in particular positive pretence, where threats are minimised or eliminated by mentally changing or altering perception of them. However, in addition to positive pretence, fears are further managed by literary and visual devices employed by the picture book creator/s, in particular in the presentation of images.

Speaking after publication, Dr Maynes further discussed these themes along with the development of the publication:

“Monsters appear so frequently in bedtime stories for children these days that their presence seems quite normal. However, when you think about it, it does seem quite strange and contradictory to introduce creatures which have the potential to be scary just at the point when tired parents want to settle their children down for a good night’s sleep.

This article evolved from discussions I had at BGU’s Monster conference in 2018 about the role of monsters in children’s literature. Monsters in stories are said to represent children’s fears, but I became interested in how authors and illustrators have made use of monsters to help children manage specific ‘bedtime’ fears such as fear of the dark or of being on their own.”

The new publication is part of a special collection “Monsters: Interdisciplinary Explorations in Monstrosity”, co-edited by Dr Sibylle Erle, Reader in English Literature at BGU and Dr Helen Hendry. The collection is an offshoot of the University’s Monster Project, held earlier this year, and can be found by clicking here.

If you have interest in children’s literature and its impact then BGU’s new MA Children Literature and Literacies, on which Dr Maynes will be teaching, is the perfect course for you. You can find out more information about the course by visiting our website or by speaking to a member of our Enquiries Team.