Monsters: Godzilla
 Adam Woog
Language: English Release: 2004
Publisher: KidHaven Press
Pages: 48
Genre: Non-fiction ISBN: 0737726164

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Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

Thanks to Joseph Messerly for lending this to me.

Along with Ian Thorne's Godzilla (by Crestwood House) and Robert Greenberger's Meet Godzilla (by Rosen Publishing Group) and their accompanying "monster" series of hardcover children's books, a third series was released by KidHaven Press one year previous to Greenberger’s, perhaps to celebrate Godzilla’s big fiftieth. KidHaven Press publishes, according to their website, "curriculum-related, nonfiction series for upper elementary students" which are "(w)ritten by experienced authors and subject editors and highly illustrated in full color." Their "Monsters" series, further, is not entirely focused on movie monsters (unlike the Crestwood and Rosen sets), with entries focused on myths and legends as well. Both Rosen and KidHaven, however, are aimed at producing educational material, and the level of the writing in KidHaven's Monsters: Godzilla (written by a prolific author of this sort of material named Adam Woog) seems similar to Greenberger's book, if perhaps slightly less sophisticated.

Also like Meet Godzilla, the KidHaven book is split into four chapters, albeit with a different overall focus. The first chapter, called "King of the Japanese Movie Monsters," is a summary of how Godzilla was originally conceived, with a short synopsis of the first film, and a few brief notes on where the series would go from there. The second chapter, “Godzilla Comes to Life,” is focused on the process of making a Godzilla movie, with quotes and stories from suitmation actors Haruo Nakajima and Ken Satsuma, as well as details about the miniatures. The third chapter, “The Many Moods of Godzilla,” evidently enough from the title, is about how Godzilla has changed from one movie to the next, with special attention given to Godzilla vs. Hedorah (again), Godzilla's parenting skills, and his vacillating villainy and heroism. The last chapter, “Godzilla Lives!”, covers the American movie and collectibles, and even a note about the Church of God, Zillah, in Zillah, Washington. The book also includes endnotes, a brief glossary, and a section with “further reading” recommendations. Nowhere is there a comprehensive film list, and only half of the films released at the time of publishing are even mentioned.

Throughout the book, Adam Woog's writing is clear and simple, which should keep young readers engaged. The writing struck me as somewhat stronger than Greenberger's, but dryer than Thorne’s. Unfortunately, like the other two hardback Godzilla books listed above, Woog's makes many factual mistakes, despite his consultations with G-Fan editor J. D. Lees (whom he includes in his acknowledgements).

From the start, Woog plugs in a number of errors, from noting that all of the films in the series have been "wildly popular" in Japan (pg. 6), to noting that Godzilla has been “charcoal gray in all of the Japanese movies” (pg. 7), to a strange description wherein Woog claims every Godzilla movie starts with the monster being “quiet,” but that Godzilla always “escapes” (from being quiet?) and that, "No matter where he is when that [his escape] happens, he always makes his way to Japan" (pg. 11). Apparently Woog never watched Son of Godzilla (1967), among others—except that he also writes at length about that film later.

But the most embarrassing mistakes come with the pictures. For whatever reason, pictures from Godzilla 2000: Millenium (1999) are used most frequently, and are sometimes mislabeled, with one picture of the 2000 suit captioned with a description of the first movie. Under another picture, of the 1992 Godzilla vs. Mothra, Woog writes, embarrassingly, that "Godzilla battles Mothra, a giant moth. Whenever he fights other monsters he always wins" (pg. 6)—despite Mothra being one of the few monsters that has defeated Godzilla. Following the same theme, a picture of a glowering, vicious visage from The Return of Godzilla (1984) includes a caption that states "Godzilla’s looks became less scary over the years to make him more appealing to women and children" (pg. 23), which, though true of the films in the 60s and 70s, is very poorly illustrated by this particular picture. Despite those howlers, many of the captions are more useful. Unfortunately, like Meet Godzilla, relatively few pictures showcase Godzilla’s enemies, which would be disappointing for me as a child, though the vast majority of pics are full color, and the overall design looks more pleasing and vivid than Rosenberger’s effort and even perhaps Thorne’s, which had no color (barring the orange cover). I also had to laugh a bit (if only inside) that Woog actually insists three times in his book that Godzilla was designed as a combination of a t-rex and a stegosaur, including once with a pair of illustrations—I could almost hear Arnold Johnson's teacherly tones.

And, much like Johnson’s little cameo in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Adam Woog's Monsters: Godzilla is supposed to be educational. It does a decent enough job, and includes some nice information and quotations. Considering Thorne’s error-soused text, and how even Greenberger’s later book also has its fair share of slip ups, it is hard to fault Woog too much for his particular bloopers. The lack of a complete movie list, though, seems a serious oversight, and the paucity of information about Godzilla foes is a missed opportunity to appeal to the reader base. Interested readers would do better to pick up The Godzilla Compendium, which is more comprehensive, and includes far fewer errors than any in the hardback (but apparently softly researched!) children’s books available to date.