MILTON — This week, Jason Edwards, author of the children’s series, "Will Allen and the Great Monster Detective," takes Berryhill Elementary School students on a monster hunt. The game combines learning library skills with teaching lessons on facing fears.
"It was all inspired by a toilet," Edwards, a former teacher, said. Early in life, one of his daughters had a surprising experience with a public automatic toilet. It flushed before she was ready for it to do so.
"She was completely freaked out," Edwards said. "She never wanted to go back to that park. Your fears grow. She didn’t want to go to any park. Then she didn’t want to go to any place that might have an automatic toilet."
The Edwards family tried therapy but to no avail, Edwards said. That’s when he tried creating someone to help.
"I invented the great monster detective," Edwards said. "She needed someone to see it the way she saw in order to confront it. I wrote a story of a boy’s fears that literally come to life."
The story didn’t instantly cure her, Edwards said, but it helped.
As he was becoming an established author, some libraries asked Edwards to give presentations.
"Kids want an adventure," Edwards said. "I asked librarians what they want and they want kids to learn how to use the library."
So Edwards developed the Great Monster Hunt based on his books. Using library tools like the card catalogue and the computer system, children in teams decipher clues and track down books containing more clues to the whereabouts of a monster.
Upon finding the "monster" in the Berryhill Elementary School library — a small, green toy — Edwards said, "No wonder monsters hide in the dark and make scary noises because when we see what they really look like they’re not really scary, are they?"
Lisa Preston’s third-grade class took part in the game before lunch time. Third-grader Brody Wetzel expressed his excitement as the class was leaving.
"That was fun," Wetzel said. "We found the monster. That was awesome."