Written by A.W. Flaherty, Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Houghton Mifflin, 2007
Once upon a time, a little girl named Katerina-Elizabeth took an ocean liner to visit her grandmother in Scotland. It was the first time she had traveled by herself.
Plot in a Nutshell: A picky eater unknowingly creates a monster
Katerina-Elizabeth’s parents plan her trip for her and arrange for her to have oatmeal every day, assuring her that she won’t grow properly without it. Because she hates oatmeal, she throws it out of the porthole. A tiny sea worm eats the oatmeal and grows bigger every day, as he follows the ship. As it gets bigger and bolder, it comes up above the water and Katerina-Elizabeth is surprised to see it. The worm follows her all the way to Loch Ness, where she leaves the boat to see her grandmother. The worm is sad, but then discovers that lots of Scottish children throw their oatmeal into the lake as well, so it continues feasting. A few months go by and a child sees the worm, now gigantic, and calls it a monster. Word of this monster spread and tourists start hiring boats to come see it. As Katerina-Elizabeth leaves to return to America, the monster, now called Nessie, rises from the water to kiss her on the nose.
This is the first origin story for the Loch Ness Monster that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it. The premise is a bit silly, but it’s fun. As a former picky eater trained in the art of hiding or getting rid of food I didn’t want to eat, throwing it into a lake seems pretty hard to do without being noticed. I love that author A.W. Flaherty never judges the taste buds of any of these characters, even showing some of the adults tourists throwing their haggis overboard. Science has learned a lot about picky eaters in recent years and Ms. Flaherty includes a page in the back of the book with scientific facts about Supertasters, including a way to see if you are a Supertaster. She has twin girls (named Katerina and Elizabeth) and one of them is a Supertaster and the other is not, which has to make meal preparation a challenge.
Illustrator Scott Magoon uses a mostly dark palette of grays and greens and browns and the mediums of pen and digital color. He draws the sea worm, and later the Loch Ness Monster, as cute and friendly, with no malice or danger in it. He shows Nessie with her head above the water, as in the famous photograph, and he also shows us the full picture, with her large body stretched out across the length of the lake. I love the two page layout and the end of the book that is designed as a scrapbook, showing Katerina-Elizabeth as an adult and including pictures and memorabilia from her trip.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that there is someone out there who loves all the things you can’t stand.