obscure or odd “Godzilla” books like
or the ghastly Godzilla
is in Purgatory, I am always trying to fill
in the gaps for the Godzilla faithful, people like
me who look at all those curious book titles on
Amazon and wonder “does that really have anything
to do with Godzilla at all?” I know that there
is little chance that most of these books will yield
much in the way of satisfying monster action, and
few will perform well even as a story. Yet I can’t
help but be a little bit fascinated by the variety
of works bearing the Japanese monster’s moniker—even
something as innocent and silly as Godzilla Ate
Written by the prolific children’s book writer
Marcia Thornton Jones (whose bibliography includes
over a hundred books, including a series called
the “Bailey City Monsters”),
Godzilla Ate My Homework tells the story
of a dim but well-meaning second-grader named Parker
(that’s his first name). Parker has been saving
his every scrounged penny in order to purchase a
pet guinea pig, and after convincing his reluctant
parents, proceeds to pick out a particularly boisterous
specimen which he arbitrarily names Godzilla. (Godzilla
is not large or radioactive; the rodent’s
defining characteristics seem instead to be speediness,
bad hair, and a propensity to gnaw on stuff.) Soon
our pesky rodent is cheerily chewing up important
documents helter skelter, most notably much of Parker’s
homework and the check for the cable bill. This
Godzilla destroys grades, not buildings! With Parker
getting more F’s than your average South Park
episode, and his family losing all patience with
our spunky homework-inhaling furrball, will Godzilla
stop chomping quizzes, or will Parker’s dreams
of pet-ownership bliss fizzle forever?
The story, written for quite young readers, is
accordingly very simple and very short. The 64 pages
can be read by an adult in under an hour, and everything
happens at a fast clip to stave away any chance
at boredom (although, really, not much happens).
Of course the story is suitable for young children
with nary a word or event that anyone should find
objectionable, although the simplicity also means
all the characters have the depth of a bottle cap.
Parker, who narrates the story, is a none-too-bright
child who always tries hard to do what’s right
but nevertheless blunders through life. He’s
a bit of a lovable dolt, and that’s the extent
of it. Everyone else in the story is just background
noise, barely sketched in enough to even fill out
a stereotype. The teacher is stern, the parents
are busy, the friend is a tomboy. Standard stuff
for the age group, I suppose. Nevertheless, I don’t
believe the rules for good storytelling cease to
apply when considering a children’s book.
It just seems lazy.
Not that the story itself is much deeper than the
characters. Even the central conceit—that
Godzilla is eating Parker’s homework and the
teacher, Mr. Morris, hands out F’s in response—isn’t
treated very convincingly. Whenever Godzilla munches
a worksheet, Parker is left telling the teacher
over and over again that “Godzilla ate it,”
and Mr. Morris assumes Parker is just lying to get
out of doing the work. But this simply doesn’t
jive with the story, unless Mr. Morris is an utter
moron. Every time Godzilla chews up a piece of homework,
Parker shows his teacher the masticated remains,
and even the completed homework Parker turns in
sometimes has a corner with Godzilla’s signature
chomp marks. Mr. Morris doesn’t notice? Furthermore,
Parker’s deflated countenance should make
it clear that the kid isn’t challenging authority.
Not to overanalyze a kid’s book, but I am
just asking for a little more thoughtfulness to
go into the narrative.
Speaking of overanalyzing, there is one scene wherein
“the real Godzilla” is mentioned, and
in hindsight years later, it’s fun to overthink
the implications of the sequence. The scene in question
takes place in the chapter “The Guinea Pig
That Ate New York,”, and takes place at Parker’s
friend Cindy’s house, pages 37 and 39:
We played Godzilla was the real Godzilla
monster and he was eating all the buildings
in New York City. We used Cindy’s army
men to fight him. Godzilla just looked at
them and squeaked.
Cindy giggled. “Godzilla,” she
said, “the guinea pig that ate New York!”
The text is accompanied by a nice illustration
of the children at play with the rodent munching
away on the cardboard buildings in the background.
What’s mildly intriguing about all this is
that Godzilla Ate My Homework was first published
in September 1997—less than a year before
the Tristar movie remake was released in theaters.
Of course, the American Godzilla would attack New
York (Manhattan, to be specific), and, much more
like the rodent Godzilla than the original, the
American Godzilla would be known for dashing around
at top speed and overeating. Even more intriguing
is that Godzilla Ate My Homework was published
by Scholastic—the very same publishing house
that would unleash a wide variety of obnoxious publications
relating to the Tristar release the very next year.
Had Scholastic already obtained the rights to Godzilla
when they published Godzilla Ate My Homework,
thus ensuring that Toho wouldn’t sue their
butts? Did some of the plot for the remake bleed
over into Marcia Thornton Jones’ rodent epic?
Or was Deanzilla actually inspired by Jones’
hirsute Godzilla more than the old-school Japanese
Alright, none of this speculation has much merit
whatsoever. If Scholastic already owned the rights
to publish Godzilla-related books, it isn’t
mentioned on the copyright page. And the similarities
between this ridiculously brief scene and the plot
of the 1998 Godzilla are just barely even superficial.
Still, an explanation that the American Godzilla
movie had been based on a kids’ book would
certainly make a lot of sense!
A word should also be said of the illustrations
in Jones’ book. Robert Krogle provides several
excellent, very lifelike sketches which prove more
than satisfactory. The drawings look a little rough
in spots, but the amount of detail, especially in
the human cast, is really impressive.
No reason exists for big Godzilla fans to purchase
Godzilla Ate My Homework. The book has absolutely
nothing to do with the Big G, and the story isn’t
particularly interesting on its own merits either.
Nevertheless, Marcia Thornton Jones’ simple,
straightforward style has its charms, and Robert
Krogle's art is quite excellent. If nothing else,
the used prices on Amazon (the lowest of which are
going for one cent) are not hard to swallow!