Godzilla Ate My Homework
 Marcia Thornton Jones
Language: English Release: 1997
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 64
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 059037236x

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

When reading obscure or odd “Godzilla” books like Godzilla Rabbit 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 My Homework.

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 city stomper?

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!