Ed Emberley’s Go Away, Big Green Monster! manages to say a great deal with very few words and images. This causes it to say much more than what the words and illustrations appear to say, unlike many other picture books, which say only what’s on the surface. I am not exaggerating when I say the following about this book: It would still be something substantial without its text. I don’t usually say this about picture books, since I normally focus on books for older children, and text is thus more important to me than illustrations. It is true, though, that without the text, this book would still be a fun cut-out book for children, with images that either appear or disappear on every page. Part of what makes this possible is that the pictures on their own don’t tell a story; they’re just the image of a monster.
With the text, though, Go Away, Big Green Monster is so much more than a fun cut-out book. It says a great deal about overcoming, controlling, and even taking advantage of one’s fears. The monster definitely represents a child’s fears. With no other images, it is pretty clearly an image in the child’s imagination, and imaginary monsters almost always represent a child’s fears, both in books and in real life.
Paired up with the text, the simple images of a monster tell the story of a child who is capable of overcoming his or her fears. This is made clear by the line, “You don’t scare me!” once we see the whole image of the monster. This child can also control his or her fears, hence why he can make the monster disappear whenever he wants, like he does during the second half of the book, when the image of the monster is disappearing. The very last sentence in this book proves that the child can take advantage of her fears, too. “And don’t come back!/ Until I say so” implies that the child believes she can find usefulness in a monster, otherwise she wouldn’t anticipate telling it to come back.
In terms of representing a child’s fears, an imaginary monster can represent things in the real world that scare a child, scary things the child worries will happen, or fear itself. All three of these things have uses in the real world, because sometimes scary things need to happen in life. Likewise, both fear itself and the ability to imagine scary things happening can help a child (or a person of any age) cope in the real world. Since this book manages to say so much more than what its text and illustrations appear to say, it is one of the best picture books I’ve read in recent times.