The Eyemonger

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
The Eyemonger Book Poster Image
Creepy but thought-provoking tale about safety and privacy.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Concepts of security, surveillance, and privacy are taught in a kid-appropriate way in this fictional tale.

Positive Messages

Privacy is critical to feeling safe and free to engage in creativity and innovation. Be courageous and stand up for your, and other's, rights. One person really can make a difference.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Eyemonger is a villain who sees the error of his ways and reforms. Griffin is a brave, young artist who loses a lot when he defends himself, but his loss pays off, and the Eyemonger has a change of heart. The Eyemonger is a reptilian/human-like creature with blue-gray skin and 103 eyes. Griffin presents as White and a boy, around middle school age. Crowd scenes feature people with a range of skin colors.

Violence & Scariness

Though there's a tension-filled scene of destruction of property, no one's physically hurt. The illustrations may be creepier than the story itself, and could scare younger or sensitive readers.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that author and privacy expert Daniel J. Solove's first kids' book, The Eyemonger, tells the story of a reptilian-human creature with 103 eyes who promises a town the end of crime in exchange for constant surveillance. A young boy stands up to the Eyemonger, but he loses a lot in the process (though he ultimately triumphs). No one is physically hurt, but the pictures and the tension created by the implied possibility of the hero being harmed may be scary for some young readers. Though the publisher greenlights this tale for ages 4 and up, the art is quite creepy and the story is dark, so this is better for older kids. That said, this is a good pick for fantasy fans, readers who enjoy being spooked, and parents who'd like a way to begin family discussions about privacy and safety.

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What's the story?

THE EYEMONGER takes place in a happy town on an island in the sea, where a newcomer, a creature with a reptilian head, a long tail, and 103 eyes, has big plans for change. He''s gained the trust of residents by assuring them he would eliminate crime by watching everyone all the time. But the citizens soon realized they don't like being under constant supervision, especially by the Eyemonger's flying eyeballs, which fly into "every building, every house, every room" to watch and report back to their master any wrongdoing. People go out less and become afraid. A young artist named Griffi bravely challenges the Eyemonger's tactics, refusing to let him or his flying eyes into his house. While enduring the wrath of the Eyemonger, Griffin loses a lot. Will Griffin's art and creation ultimately save the day?

Is it any good?

This book is a thought-provoking, creative approach to teaching kids the value of privacy, but the implausible resolution may leave readers unsatisfied. The Eyemonger is truly creepy, in both story and pictures, which will appeal to many big kids. Books that tackle the serious issue of privacy are needed in kids' lit, and there's much to recommend about this book. Beckwith's steampunk-style art is excellent, atmospheric, and absorbing. Solove's rhyming text makes for a great read-aloud, and the story is mostly well-constructed. There's a gripping buildup of tension as the story approaches the climax, as Griffin, our hero, refuses to be spied on, the Eyemonger rages, and an army of rhinos charges toward Griffin.

Yet, the Eyemonger's lightening-quick change of heart feels unlikely given what readers know about the creature. Equally unbelievable is Griffin's lightening-quick forgiveness. Some kid readers will surely take it all in stride and not be bothered, but others may miss the overall important message of the book if hung up on why it was so easy for the conflict to be resolved. Still, this book has its place as a useful tool to start conversations about security, safety, surveillance, and privacy with big kids on the cusp of a life on the internet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the issue of safety vs. privacy that comes up in The Eyemonger. What do you think about the Eyemonger's statement "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear"? When do you want to have privacy? What are your family's values about privacy?

  • How does the Eyemonger's thoughts about safety and privacy change over the course of the story? 

  • How would you describe the art in this book? What would you say is more scary: the story or the art? Why?

Book details

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