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Title
 Who's Afraid of Godzilla?
Author(s)
 Di Kaiju (Marc Cerasini)
Language: English Release: 1998
Publisher: Random House Pages: 23
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 0679891242

Preview:
Back Cover
 
Comments
Nicholas Driscoll

Being one of two Godzilla children's books illustrated by celebrated kaiju artist Bob Eggleton, Who's Afraid of Godzilla? automatically earns particular brownie points among the fandom. Eggleton is a fantastic artist, which makes it easy to purchase the book on the merits of the art alone. But the book asks more questions than whether anyone is afraid of Godzilla—most pressingly, who on earth is "Di Kaiju" and can she (He? It?) write a good story?

To answer the first question, according to the remembrance of Bob Eggleton himself (via personal correspondence), Di Kaiju was Marc Cerasini, author of the mostly beloved older-audience Godzilla quadrology of novels, as well as Godzilla Saves America and co-author of The Godzilla Compendium. (It is not clear if Cerasini also authored Kaiju Big Battel: A Practical Guide to Giant City-Crushing Monsters, which was also purportedly authored by someone named Di Kaiju.) The answer to the other question depends on taste, but as far as I'm concerned, Who's Afraid of Godzilla? is about the best Godzilla children's book Americans can get, at least at this point.

In Who's Afraid of Godzilla?, "Di Kaiju" proves he can compose a cute story Much like in the Scott Ciencin chapter books, the central struggle of the protagonist/lizard is: Where can I find a friend? Unlike Ciencin's somewhat problematic texts, however, this book portrays a genuinely kind Godzilla in a simplified, amusing world in which he does not destroy cities or even beat up other monsters. Such typical monster themes are barely touched on, and the book, in this case anyway, is better for it.

The tale is nothing original, but it remains great fun to see with kaiju taking up the main roles: Godzilla lives on Monster Island and he is the biggest, scariest monster of them all. Unfortunately, he is so big and scary that the other monsters won't play with him. Whenever he tries to join in their boisterous romping, the other monsters run away as fast as they can. Godzilla feels the heavy weight of rejection and searches the world for viable playmates, but everywhere he goes, everyone and everything is afraid of him, from people to sea animals to the beasts of Africa. Of course, while Godzilla is gone, troublemakers Megalon and Gigan start lording it over the other, weaker monsters, and some of the kaiju begin to wonder if having Godzilla around was such a bad thing after all…

Comparatively speaking, Who's Afraid of Godzilla? is a much more challenging text than Kerry Milliron's Godzilla Likes to Roar! Whereas Milliron's book often had merely one or two sentences on a page built around a simple rhyming scheme, Who's Afraid of Godzilla? is more likely to have two paragraphs with nary a rhyming word in sight. There is actually a story with characters to care about, and a very basic social/moral dilemma to ponder, albeit one that is neatly wrapped up by the end. Friendship is valued, as is the inclusion of those who are different, and readers are encouraged to suspend judgment against people who may initially appear scary. For children, it functions well without being preachy or obnoxious, and long-time G-fans will love that Anguirus and Godzilla's friendship is established by the end.

Eggleton's art here is actually better than his work in Godzilla Likes to Roar!, with some truly memorable scenes—my favorites being when Godzilla towers over a herd of elephants, and a hilarious shot of Godzilla slapping himself in the face as humanity blasts a bunch of missiles at him, missing with almost every shot. The monsters look pretty great, although Manda barely makes an appearance, and Rodan has an amusingly lugubrious expression on the last page. Just like in Godzilla Likes to Roar!, however, the adorable Godzilla on the cover doesn't match the somewhat more frightening Heisei-style Godzilla inside, and for some reason this time Eggleton paints the Big G green! Background detail is sparse, but tastefully done, and functions well in the context of the story. Really, nitpicking aside, only the most anal fans will be complaining much about this publication.

For kaiju fans with families, both Eggleton-illustrated books are obvious purchases, but I would say Who's Afraid of Godzilla? is the superior of the two. Although it has none of the charms of Milliron's rhymes, the inclusion of an actual story and livelier art makes this one the obvious winner. The book has been out of print for years, so if you should stumble upon it for a reasonable price, don't be afraid to buy it. This Godzilla book isn't scary at all.