Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor is one of many adaptations of Mary Shelley’s world renowned
novel, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Written by Elizabeth Levy and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein, this children’s book puts a new and interesting spin on Mary Shelley’s work. Although the novel was published in 1979 by Harper Trophy, An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, the text is readily available in most bookstores and can be ordered online as well. However, it is advised that readers have a basic knowledge of the story of Frankenstein in order to understand this narrative.
Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor is a light read for children ages seven to ten years old. This novel loosely follows the text of the original Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus; however, the main principles of fear and isolation are ever present. Targeted towards children, the author tells the story of two boys living with their mother in the same apartment building as Frankenstein. The main characters Sam and Robert think their new neighbor is “weird”, so they embark on secret adventures to prove to themselves the man who moved in on the fourth floor is indeed Frankenstein himself.
Since Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor is directed towards children, the novel is not as frightful as one that is aimed towards adults. The book is composed of large text and several illustrations throughout. The pictures during the course of the book assist in allowing the reader to better understand how Sam and Robert are feeling. The illustrations on the cover of the book are in color, but the illustrations inside the book are in black and white and appear more like sketches. Although the pictures are in black and white, they do help the novel come to life.
One of the boys is convinced the family’s new neighbor must be Frankenstein because he matches the description given in Mary Shelley’s novel. At times over the course of the text, excerpts from Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus appear. The original text is used to support the eldest boy’s hypothesis regarding the identity of their neighbor.
In the end of this novel, Mr. Frank leaves the apartment building due to nosy neighbors (Levy, 55), and the boys’ are unable to find out whether or not their neighbor was Victor Frankenstein. However, from the evidence they gathered, it can be conceived that he was Frankenstein.
Knowledge plays an important role in Elizabeth Levy’s novel, and in most Frankenstein adaptations. This theme is present throughout the entire work of Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor. The Bamford family first comes in contact with their new neighbor in the stairwell of their apartment building, and he leaves a lasting impression. Sam Bamford and his mother are taking the stairs up to their apartment. Once they arrive at the fourth floor, they notice a large stack of boxes with the name “Frank” written on them. Sam is curious about what the boxes contain, so he proceeds to pull out a tangled mess of wires from one of the boxes (Levy, 2). At this time, the stairwell door opens and a head with earphones and antennas pokes out (Levy, 2).
After this encounter, Sam sets out to prove his neighbor is Frankenstein, and puts together a hypothesis. From what Sam has gathered so far based on his new neighbor’s appearance, he turns to his abridged version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to compare his facts. He notes Mr. Frank is very thin, and in Mary Shelley’s novel it states, “… My cheek had grown pale… my person had become emaciated.” This was enough basic proof for Sam, so he and his brother Robert decide to go exploring in the basement in order to gain more information about Mr. Frank.
As the novel progresses, Sam and Robert learn from their neighbor Mr. Clem that he has been hearing moans and groans coming from Mr. Frank’s apartment (Levy, 18). This fact intrigues Sam even more, and he ventures to the basement once again with the hopes of finding out what Mr. Frank keeps in his storage room. The boy’s in this novel can at times be compared to the monster in Shelley’s novel. The boys have a desire to learn information about their neighbor, and the monster in Shelley's novel has a desire for education as well.
It can be argued that the main theme in Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor is electricity. From the beginning of the novel, wires and antennae come in to play (Levy, 2). Sam notes that Frankenstein’s monster in Mary Shelley’s novel comes to life using electricity (Levy, 21). There is a power outage that starts on the fourth floor, Mr. Frank lives on the fourth floor and it is believed that he overloaded the circuits (Levy, 20). During the power outage in the apartment building, Sam blames Mr. Frank. As the family is using the stairs to get to their apartment on the nineteenth floor, Mr. Frank comes out of his apartment complaining about the outage. He states he was working on something new and then the power went out (Levy, 23). Mrs. Bramford informs him the building never had electricity problems until he moved in.
After this encounter, Sam makes a list of Mr. Frank’s similarities to Frankenstein (Levy, 27). On the list of similarities it states, “Frankenstein experiments with electricity and Mr. Frank uses a lot of electricity.” Throughout the entire novel, Mr. Frank is using some type of electronic device or wires. In Mary Shelley’s novel and in most adaptations, there is a use of electricity as well.
Not much information can be found regarding this book other than how to purchase it. One reviewer states, “… Sam's case is a flimsy one, and the adventure Levy makes of it is just as flat.” However, Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor is a great read for young children even if they do not have any experience with Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus because Levy ties information back to the original novel.
Significance of Adaptation
Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor adds a fun and unique way to learn a little about the story of Frankenstein. As far as textual adaptations go, this novel is most likely not the best for learning in depth information about the classic. This novel does tie together facts with the original novel that is not usually found in other adaptations. Elizabeth Levy’s work pulls information from Mary Shelley’s novel, and quotes the book directly. One might find it interesting that a young child such as Sam would have an abridged version of Frankenstein.
This novel takes a stance not found in other variations, and can be considered its most notable quality. Although not critically acclaimed, Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor makes Mr. Frank frightening as if he is the creature in Mary Shelley’s novel. He is referred to as a “monster” and he has a mixture between the appearance of Victor Frankenstein and his creature. For example, in the illustrations Mr. Frank’s stature is incredibly tall and thin (Levy, 10). On page nine in the novel a prime example of his appearance can be found.
References and Suggestions for Further Reading
"Kirkus Review: Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor." Kirkus Reviews. Harper & Row, 25 Apr. 1979. Web. 12 Apr. 2015. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/elizabeth-levy+12/frankenstein-moved-in-on-the-fourth-floor/
Levy, Elizabeth. Frankenstein Moved in on the Fourth Floor. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. Text. 1981.
McFadden, Deanna. Frankenstein: Retold from the Mary Shelley Original. New York: Sterling Publishing Company Inc. Text. 2006
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Susan J. Wolfson. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. 2nd ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007 Print.