Everyone wants a monster to call their own.
That's why Frederick author Patrick Boyton, 36, is resurrecting the legend of the Snallygaster, a mythological creature said to dwell in the caves of South Mountain in Middletown, with his children's book "Beware the Snallygaster."
"I wanted to write something that would resonate and be meaningful to the (local) kids," he said, "and something kind of scary."
The 102-page illustrated book follows best friends Holly and Peter as they uncover the truth behind the legend of the Snallygaster one Halloween night.
The character of Holly is based on the daughter of Boyton's friend from Middletown.
"I had her sense of wonderment in mind when writing the story," he said.
As for the character of Peter, he's very much like Boyton.
"He writes for his school newspaper, he's curious, anti-authoritarian, and he gets himself into trouble a lot," he said. "That's probably a lot like me at that age."
The idea for the children's book came to Boyton after writing his first text on the subject, "Snallygaster: The Lost Legend of Frederick County."
After speaking about the Snallygaster to a group of children at Lincoln Elementary School in Frederick, he realized his first work was too academic.
"I approached it in an adult way, I didn't approach it as a monster story," he said. "I am guilty of pulling the curtain away from the legend."
And so "Beware the Snallygaster" was born.
"Children mostly want to hear about (the Snallygaster) eating children, and not why we're interested in the legend as a society," Boyton said. "Children don't want their monster explained away."
It took Boyton about a year, in fits and starts, to finish the story. He stressed that writing for children is no easy task.
"People think it is easier to write for children because there are less words and easier sentences, but it's much more challenging," he said. "You really have to rein yourself in and consider your audience."
"Beware, the Snallygaster" is written for ages 8 to 12, but Boyton believes anyone interested in the local legend will enjoy it.
Having never written a children's book before, Boyton reread some of his favorite books from growing up to get an idea of appropriate language.
"Beware, the Snallygaster" captures the same eerie feeling of authors Ray Bradbury ("Fahrenheit 451") and John Bellairs ("The Face in the Frost"). It is also in a similar vein to R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" series, although Boyton stresses that his book is less frightening and focuses more on character and mystery.
Boyton believes that children are saturated with mythological creatures from other cultures, namely European, but that they are too removed from these legends to fully appreciate them.
"Although the Snallygaster is filtered through German folklore, it is a unique American experience," he said.
Frederick native Meghan Boehman, a sophomore at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, did the illustrations for the book.
Boyton contacted her after seeing an article in The Frederick News-Post about a book she published with her brother.
"I wanted to work with someone locally and someone who had a fresh and young perspective," Boyton said.
What resulted are simple illustrations with a pencil-sketched quality to them.
"I wanted them to feel like the illustrations in books I read growing up," Boyton said.
Boyton published the book through his own company, South Mountain Publishing.
"Beware the Snallygaster" is available at Snallygaster Gifts in Middletown, Barnes & Noble in Frederick and Turn the Page Bookstore in Boonsboro. It is also available at Snallygaster gifts in Middletown, and online at www.amazon.com.