Frankenstein, 200 years later:
Has Mary Shelley's dream come true?

I love this trend that's been going on lately of exploring the biographical genre in children's books,  because biographies are basically non-fiction books with a fictional feel, they are real. But they are more than just stories based on real facts, as they can inspire researching and further reading. 
Who knows if my daughter will read Frankenstein in a decade or so, evolving in a dreamy and dark teenager like I was. Will this reading echo in her mind somehow?

These two titles were both published this year in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, considered by many to be one of literature's greatest novels and the very first example of science fiction.
Mary's Monster was released last February in the UK and has now been published in Italian by Il Castoro, while Mary who wrote Frankenstein was published in the US a month ago in conjunction with Mary Shelley's birthday (the UK edition will be out on October 4). The first is a 320-pages YA graphic novel with free verse on full spread black&white illustrations, while the second is a picture book for primary school children, written by Linda Bailey and illustrated with the iconic style of Spanish artist Jùlia Sardà.

Why is Frankenstein important? Why is Mary Shelley's life relevant to us and to our children? Why on earth should we introduce them to a horror story?

The novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young, ambitious scientist who creates a grotesque, sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment, assembling parts of human and animal cadavers. Tormented with fear and repulsion, he then rejects it. 
Deprived from human companionship, the monster will start to wander seeking revenge. 
Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, 1931, Universal Pictures

Frankestein, like Prometheus, is the symbol of human striving for progress and civilisation defying the rules of 'gods' (intended as Nature).
Frankestein is an astonishingly pioneering and visionary narrative exploring some crucial questions about the ethical limits of science and new technologies as well as the sinister social consequences of human attempts to control the natural world and life itself.
Aren't sex robots a 'pretty' kind of monsters, the final frontier of mankind alienation from reality?
All this is no longer just science fiction.
Mary Shelley explored two hundreds of years ago a very current topic, and this struggle between a monster and its creator has been an enduring part of popular culture.
The novel also has an immense legacy in cinema and visual arts. 

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley [30August 1797 - 1 February 1851] published it anonymously when she was only eighteen. At the age of sixteen she left her father's home and England to travel Europe together with poet Percy Bisshe Shelley, who was still married to another woman at that time. She was a teenager pregnant with her first child Clara, who was born in February 2015 and died after only 10 days.
They married in 1816 after the suicide of Shelley's wife and Mary's half sister.
When Frankestein was out in 1818 with an introduction by Shelley, the book was attributed to him, and her name only appeared on the second edition in 1823 a year after her husband's death, drowning in the Gulf of La Spezia, Italy, where the couple had settled.
Mary and Percy Shelley faced the loss of three children, and hadn't the most idyllic marriage.
Mary Shelley died of brain cancer at the age of 53 after a short life challenged by tragic events, first of which was her mother's death when she was only eleven days old. 
Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer and women's rights advocate, and although the two Marys never got to know each other, we see how Mary Shelley embraced her mother's feminist inspiration deciding to break all the rules she could break at that time: she wrote a horror story, she had a relationship with a married man and became pregnant with him and she decided to live as an exile away from her native country.
Mary Shelly was a brave, passionate woman and artist, which makes her story relevant to girls in first place.
Although with different approaches, both books manage to convey the intensity, passion, misery and courage that filled her remarkable life, which was nothing less than a (fictional) Romantic drama.

The creation of Mary's Monster took  six years of research and work.  Here author/illustrator Lita Judge creates a more Romantic atmosphere, and the first-person narrative encourages the identification with Mary and the understanding of her inner emotional struggle, grief and misery. Both words and art focus on depicting Mary's passionate personality as a young woman and her relationship with Percy Shelley.
A beautiful graphic novel guaranteed to intrigue both teenagers and adults.
Mary's Monster
Love, madness, and how Mary Shelley created Frankenstein [1st February 2018] available here
English edition published by Wren&Rook, an imprint of Hachette Children's Books

Mary e il mostro
Amore e ribellione. Come Mary Shelley creo' Frankenstein [1 February 2018] available here
Italian edition published by Il Castoro 

Words&Art by Lita Judge
Reading age: 14+
Themes: Biography, Literature, Identity

In Mary who wrote Frankenstein Linda Bailey focuses on depicting Mary's exciting childhood and the story-behind -the story of her masterpiece. 
Mary Shelley grew up immersed in the Romantic culture, in close contact with the greatest English scientists, philosophers, physicians and writers of that era: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John William Polidori to name a few are the names influencing the genesis of Frankenstein.
Most events in Mary's private life have been omitted here to leave space for the more age appropriate theme of literary creativity, exploring how the creative process can fully draw from life itself, from dreams and from the subconscious.
Julia Sarda's art is dark and gothic, the style that suits her better, which also permeated The Liszts .
At the end of the book we find a valuable and extensive note from the author revealing the inspiration behind this book and offering a tool to start a discussion about the book with older children.
I usually tend to offer to my daughter some books aimed to children aged 6+, although this is not the case.
Because of the nature of this story I wouldn't read this book to pre-schoolers, who might still be dealing with fantasy-reality confusion and nightmares.
who wrote Frankenstein [28th August 2018] available here
English-language edition published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House
Words by Linda Bailey
Art by Jùlia Sardà
Reading age: 6+
Themes: Biography, Literature, Creativity, Identity

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