One of a cluster of books celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.
This picture book focuses on Mary’s solitary childhood, in which she wanders alone through city streets, cultivating her daydreams, or “castles in the air,” which provided the initial inspiration for her novels. She is influenced by the writings of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, whose grave she visits, and by her intellectual but severe father. She is introduced to the intelligentsia of London and hears Coleridge reciting The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem she will never forget. Stifled at home, Mary elopes with the poet Shelley; her stepsister Claire goes along. Their travels in Europe take them past Castle Frankenstein, the inspiration for Mary’s famous novel. One wild and stormy night, the three friends meet with the poet Byron and his writer friend John Polidori at Byron’s villa beside Lake Geneva. Byron makes his famous proposal that each should write a ghost story. This challenge and Mary’s introduction to science, particularly galvanism, are the inspirations for Mary’s famous monster. Bailey’s text features clipped, short sentences and presents carefully chosen details children will understand. Sardà’s watercolor-and-digital illustrations are dark and stormy and perfectly suited to the mood of the story. The many decorative details, reminiscent of 18th-century gravestone designs, will fascinate children, and the gaunt, Gorey-like, grave-pallid figures will send chills down the spine.
An exciting tale in its own right, this biography should prime readers for the original. (Picture book/biography. 6-10)