Children and monsters share a similar position in the world dominated by human adults: both are typically represented as animalized, alien creatures that are to be tamed, protected, abused, or repelled. In other words, children and monsters are constructed as different and “other” from the hegemonic standard that is the full-grown, healthy (and typically white) human. Children’s literature thus opens a space where the ethical relationships between humans and nonhumans can be radically reconfigured: the different forms and genres of fiction aimed at infants and youngsters offer wads of intriguing, underutilized material for examining the construction of nonhuman otherness and its complex connections to the various groups of human others – including children themselves.
In the chapter co-authored by Marleena Mustola and Sanna Karkulehto, brief analyses of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Shaun Tan’s “Stick Figures” (in Tales of Outer Suburbia, 2009), and Tuutikki Tolonen’s Monster Nanny (2017) demonstrate how the othering, abjection, and abuse of the monsters in children’s literature embody the contemporary (human) anxieties. In all of these narratives, the fear of difference agitates the human characters to mistreat the characters that represent the disempowered other: monsters – and even the monstrous characteristics lurking inside the humans themselves – are squeezed into tight closets, creatures evoking existential questions are beaten down to silence, and opportunistic quests are undertaken to tame anything wild and unruly.