Stitch Head: Monster Hunter discussion guide

 The Author: Guy Bass

Guy is author of the Dinkin Dings and The Legend of Frog series. In 2010, Dinkin Dings and the Frightening Things won the Blue Peter Book Award for Most Fun Story with Pictures.

The Illustrator: Pete Williamson

You may recognise Pete’s work from other titles he has worked on for authors such as Sam Gayton, Marcus Sedgwick, Francesca Simon or even from the Flora television advert!

Synopsis:

Join a mad professor's forgotten creation (Stitch Head) as he risks it all to save his friends.

When an unexpected visitor crash-lands on top of Castle Grotteskew, Stitch Head knows it can only mean trouble. Eccentric explorer, Dotty Dauntless, has bet her fortune on delivering a monster to the Venture Club – the problem is, all the castle’s monsters are as meek as kittens…

 

Weblinks:

http://www.guybass.com/stitch-head trailer for Stitch Head

http://www.petewilliamson.co.uk/

Discussion Points

Before Reading:

What is a monster?

Ask the children to draw their own monster and label it -what makes it a monster?

 What ‘monster’ stories are the children familiar with? King Kong/Godzilla/Jaws/The Gruffalo/Monsters Inc - leave Monsters Inc to the end of the discussion as it subverts the simplistic concept of ‘monster’?

The Frankenstein story - What do the children already know about Dr Frankenstein and his creations? They may have seen the Apple Christmas television advert with a sympathetic portrayal of the monster. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFPcsYGriEs

Background

Monster Hunter is book 6 in the Stitch Head series. It is useful for the children to know that Stitch Head was Professor Erasmus’ first creation and every time a new ‘monster’ is created Stitch ‘cures’ the monstrous trait with a potion. In the first story when ‘The Creature’ was created by Professor Erasmus Castle Grotteskew was visited by Fulbert Freakfinder, who tried to lure Stitch Head away to star in his Carnival of Unatural Wonders. You can play the trailer given in the weblinks above to give a flavour of castle Grotteskew.

During Reading:

The opening pages:

Read the ‘Ominous Ode’ and look at the first illustration of Castle Grotteskew.

  • What impression does the reader get of the place in which the story is set - the name Grubbers Nubbin, population, time period.
  • What might we expect from such a place and time?

 

Prologue

The purpose of a prologue could be discussed at this point as a literary technique, presenting action that takes place prior to the action of the main story. In this case we are introduced to the character of Arabella very much outside the castle walls in which the rest of the story takes place. What do we learn about her personality?

Stargazing

Constellations p.11, p.202

A map of the Constellations could be viewed and children could make up names for different clusters. This could be done orally or through drawing clusters and labelling them. The important point is use of imagination and ‘seeing beyond’. You could discuss the Roman and Greek mythological names, the modern labels and the children can add their own. As an example the same group of stars can be referred to as Ursa Major (Roman) -The Great Bear  and within that group: The Big Dipper (US) - The Plough (UK), it has even been called The Weasel. The point can be made that not everyone sees things in the same way. Many things are open to interpretation.

Seven Years later. Discuss the time in relation to the main story which takes place -

  • What do we know about Arabella at the start of the story. How old is she?

Read the beginning of The First Chapter aloud to your group or class.

  • What is your first impression of the monster on page 20?
  • How is that impression quickly dispelled on the follow page.

Introducing Dotty

Dotty Dauntless has a ‘can do’, stiff upper lip attitude. Comparisons can be made with Amelia Earhart (The children may be familiar with the portrayal in the second Night at the Museum film)

These quotations by Amelia Earhart can be used to demonstrate the similarities:

The most effective way to do it, is to do it.

Adventure is worthwhile in itself

Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn't be done.

Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two thirds of any venture

Play detective

We get very different styles of writing and a little insights into the different characters in the excerpts from Dotty Dauntless’s Curious Chronicles of Adventuresome Exploration, letters from The Creations of Grotteskew and the Mad Musings from The Occasionally Scientific Writings of Professor Erasmus Erasmus. For chapters that you read together as a group you could pause after the excerpt and discuss what may lie ahead in the chapter that follows. Whose perspective does the chapter start with?

Looking at Language

The story centres round a wager between Stitch Head and Dotty Dauntless. Bass provides some wonderful vocabulary, some of which may be worthy of discussion prior to reading:

  • muse
  • Behemoth
  • entourage
  • fiend
  • eviscerate p.79
  • wager p.103
  • paradox p.127
  • pacifist p. 149
  • nefarious p.188

Dotty and Arabella’s use of language is worthy of comparison. Dotty’s use of alliteration, hyperbole and rhetoric compared to the simplicity and Arabella's non-standard grammar “them boots”, “ain’t no one…” (p.82)

Characters

There is an eclectic mix of characters in this story: all with very different personalities and behaviour.  Page 188 offers a good example of how differently Dotty, The Creature and Arabella want to resolve the problem of Freakfinder.

Character poses - ask the children to select one of the characters listed below (in point of view) and strike a pose that encapsulates their character. This could start out as a charade style game, in which they can act out an everyday action e.g.climbing the stairs, eating their breakfast, playing football in the style of that character, AND/OR choose a character to pose as (they cannot move at all once they have settled on the pose).

Point of view

Interview these characters to retell the events in the story from their viewpoint:

  • Stitch Head
  • Arabella
  • Dotty
  • The Creature
  • Professor Erasmus - we can tell a lot about the Professor from his Mad Musings featuring at the beginning of most chapters.

You may like to write diary entries of Dotty Dauntless using her language and forthright style - aka Star Trek captain’s log.

Happy Endings

  • Discuss the moral of the story: “No one OWNS anyone”
  • Identity: ensure the children appreciate the significance of Dotty using Stitch Head’s name instead of referring to him as ‘scamp’.
  • Poetic justice - explain how this is represented in the conclusion of the story, particularly for Freakfinder.

After Reading

What makes a monster?

  • Revisit ideas from the Before Reading section
  • Read page 135
  • Appearance - is it Fulbert’s moustache/hair that make him a monster?
  • Monstrous behaviour -Does something have to look like a monster to be monstrous?
  • Who were the monsters in Roald Dahl’s most popular children’s stories?
  • Parents, teachers (Matilda), aunts (James and the Giant Peach), grandma (George’s Marvellous Medicine) neighbours (The Twits), anyone! (The Witches).
  • Does Fulbert Freakfinder display monstrous behaviour? 
  • You may want to discuss the definition of the word ‘freak’ as representing an abnormality in situation or person and how it can be a highly offensive term. It may be pertinent if children in your group enjoy browsing Ripley’s Believe it or Not to discuss the feelings of those represented with abnormalities and how they should be referred to and discussed respectfully. Make connections between reading Ripley's and The Victorian Freak show. How are they similar? Why do people read them. 

Further Reading:

Chris Riddell Goth Girl - hugely popular series by Children’s Laureate. Ada Goth has many challenges to face living with her father in Ghastly-Gorm Hall.

Jon Scieszka Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor - a humorous tale of creations using science as the focus

Advanced reading:

Emma Carroll Strange Star- a dark gothic tale based on Mary Shelley’s work

Andrew Lane Young Sherlock: Stone Cold  - Burk and Hare style stolen body parts in an isolated manor house in Victorian Oxford.

Classic:

Mary Shelley Frankenstein 

Jules Vernes Around the World in Eighty Days 

The Real Reads series offers an accessible format for classic tales

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