Monday, June 30, 2008

The Patchwork Monkey (1976, Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures)

UPDATE: Some sicko actually built this thing...
UPDATE: Post has been updated with scans of the complete text of the story. See bottom of post.
Ah, there's Ms. Welles, the nice old lady who lives down the lane. She's holding up "Patches", a toy monkey onto which she's sewn patches of clothes from all the children in her family that have played with him over the years.

That's Molly and Jason looking on. Jason loves Ms. Welles as if she were his own Grandma, but Molly suspects she might be a witch.

"Patches" lounges on a tree branch (a detail from the cover illustration).

Ms. Welles passes the doll on to Jason. Jealous, Molly frightens Jason with a story that the doll eats all the children that play with him, and this somehow keeps Ms. Welles from dying. Did she just invent this story out of thin air, or did Ms. Welles send her this information with her witchy "vibrations"?

That night the children are home alone, Jason is snuggling "Patches" in bed until the monkey gives him a bite. At least he thinks its a bite. Molly inspects the doll and finds a bent pin on its hand (visible in the illustration below).

She stuffs him in the closet, but there's a lightning storm and the power goes out. Creak....thump....jingle jingle. What's that sound? Where's Jason?

Is that Patches or Jason? Molly fumbles in the dark.

At this point, the story gets downright creepy, as "Patches" merges with Jason:

He started toward her, his smile growing wider and thinner until it was a red line of yarn across a flat face. He laughed in a silly falsetto that wasn't Jason's laugh at all. "I'm not fooling," the monkey said.

One of the things that used to disappoint me about many horror stories written for children is the obligatory happy ending. Also, it often seemed the ghost, or monster, or mysterious thing that we've been afraid of all through the story ends up being debunked with a non-supernatural explanation. This always seemed like a cop-out...leading children to the edge of terror, but afraid to make that final jump.

But you'll get no such relief from "The Patchwork Monkey".

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures

A spooky little book, which I purchased new in 1976, and has since become somewhat of a collector's item. It's comprised of nine short stories by nine different authors, an introduction by science fiction author Andre Norton, and beautifully illustrated by Rod Ruth.

I'm constantly surprised at what trivial nonsense can be found on the Internet, and yet strangely I've found virtually nothing about illustrator Rod Ruth. I was already aware of this artist from his work on many of the "Album of..." books ("Album of Dinosaurs" being one of my be featured in a future post.) Here he provides a full page, full color illustration for each story, plus a small black and white title graphic for each.

The interior cover spread, illustrating a scene from "The Spell of Spirit Stones" by Alice Wellman.

The contents of the book are as follows:

Introduction by Andre Norton
The Patchwork Monkey by Beverly Butler
The Yamadan by Lynne Gessner
Monster Blood by Charles Land
Tigger by A.M. Lightner
The Spell of Spirit Stones by Alice Wellman
The Night Creature by Richard R. Smith
To Face a Monster by Carl Henry Rathjen
You Are What You Eat by Wilma Bedmarz
Nightmare in A Box by Rita Ritchie

In a future post I'll get into more detail about individual stories. My favorite is the creepy The Patchwork Monkey. You can see the little guy on the cover image at top, sitting benignly on the tree branch just below the rooster-looking Basilisk monster.

The Patchwork Monkey apparently had an impact on quite a few readers... it was even translated into a short film in 2003, although I haven't seen it. There's an entry for it at IMDB here.
Stay tuned for more about "Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures"...

UPDATED: Subsequent posts related to this book can be found here, here, and here.