Catch Me a Godzilla
 Billi Rosen
Language: English Release: 1994
Publisher: Antelope Books
Pages: 89
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 024113449

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

Along with GODZILLA: The Official AnnualCatch Me a Godzilla is one of only two "Godzilla" books published in England, written by Brits—at least that I have found. This particular book also proved more troublesome to purchase; I was originally curious about it during my first wave of mindless Godzilla rip-off purchases (back when I reviewed Godzilla Meets Master Charge and Godzilla Rabbit, etc.). However, at that time, the cheapest copy I could find was over one hundred dollars, and I wasn't about to spend that much dough on a book that, I figured, wouldn’t even have Godzilla in it. Recently I found the book for a far cheaper figure, and picked it up to see if my intuitions had been accurate.

Turns out they were. Here, "Godzilla" is a caretaker at an apartment complex—basically a janitor, a job which yours truly has some experience in. Thus, Godzilla has been a guinea pig, a horse, a rabbit, the subject of a horrible haiku, the king of purgatory, an object of weird romantic fantasies, a spokesperson for anti-capitalism, and now a churlish grump in overalls who cleans graffiti and gives children a hard time. The titular character's bad attitude and the book’s green color are the only tenuous connections to the Toho monster. The stories are not about monsters, but about children.

The book is broken into two story arcs: "Catch Me a Godzilla" and "You’ve Got Brains so Use Them." In the first story, told in first-person, a nine or maybe ten-year-old black youth named Jake has a series of run-ins with Mr. Gordon the caretaker, whom he calls “Godzilla” because of his size and temperament. Mr. Gordon won’t allow Jake to use the elevator for reasons that are never explained, and apparently the big galoot gets his jollies each day by trying to stop Jake from riding. The resolution to their problem involves an incident from which comes the title of the book. The second story arc, oddly told in the third person, deals with a much-kinder Jake and his attempts to befriend a fellow black boy in a wheelchair.

The stories are amusing, and are written with an obvious attempt to teach readers lessons about life and how we should help each other and try to understand those who are different. In the first story, Jake and Mr. Gordon need to come to terms with each other, and there are some issues with racism running under the surface. In the second story, obviously, accepting and loving the disabled are the themes. However, sometimes the story stumbles, as Jake’s father comes across as a milquetoast of a dad, babbling at his son, asking him to behave rather than disciplining the little brat, while Jake mouths off and simply refuses to change anything.

Characterization is inconsistent as well. Throughout the first story, Mr. Gordon is basically a raging, insensitive, racist lunatic, but in the second story he is wise, caring, and insightful. Jake’s wheelchair-bound friend also makes a sudden change in his life, with little in the way of transition; at first he hates everything and everybody, and then he’s kind and considerate and can control his temper better than Jake can!

My favorite part of the book is the writing, and although Rosen breaks a number of rules I learned in my writing classes in undergrad, her prose is lively and well-seasoned with vernacular expressions. Actually, there is so much Brit-slang and so many British expressions that occasionally I got a skosh confused. Do you know what “narked” means? Do you know what a newsagents is? How about this exchange:

"You won’t fall on the blower when we’ve gone?"

"We don’t plan to grass on you as soon as your back’s turned if that’s what you mean," Jake burst out indignantly. (pg. 86)

From context, it’s clear the children are talking about snitching on one another, but still, I wasn’t familiar with either of these expressions. Great opportunity to learn a new English dialect, I suppose. Also, I love that the main character is cocking a snook on the cover—and that the book also uses that expression in its pages!

Alright, so once again, I bought a book that has nothing really to do with Godzilla or Toho. Nevertheless, this one wasn’t so bad, and might prove entertaining for some of the younger among us. The language is fun, the writing spunky, and the art by Terry McKenna is appealingly stylized. Sure, there are some stumbles, and there is no reason to pay more than a few bucks for it (or maybe a pound, if you’re in England), but for once I didn’t regret reading an obscure “Godzilla” book, and for that, I am thankful.