Review of A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness; inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd; illus. by Jim Kay
Middle School    Candlewick    206 pp.
9/11    978-0-7636-5559-4    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-7636-5633-1    $16.99
Conor’s mum has cancer; his father lives in America with his new family and rarely visits; he doesn’t get along with his grandma who helps look after his mother; he’s picked on by a bully and feels isolated from the other kids at school; and he consistently has the same nightmare when he falls asleep at night that he tells no one about. No one, that is, until a monster spirit, in the form of a yew tree, comes to visit Conor (always at 12:07), to tell him three stories before Conor must tell him a fourth—the story of his nightmare. The stories of the witch and the prince, the apothecary and the parson, and the invisible man indirectly relate to Conor’s situation, but he does not realize their significance until the monster forces him to speak the thoughts he has been burying deep within himself and feeling horribly guilty over. Carnegie Medal–winner Ness’s tale of pain and loss, inspired by an idea from author Siobhan Dowd prior to her early death from cancer in 2007, is both heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. The mysterious content of Conor’s nightmare physically affects him while revealing itself organically and in emotionally powerful ways as Ness’s story progresses. While some of Kay’s drawings feel a bit one-dimensional and detached from the text, those involving the monster and his stories effectively capture and enhance the harrowing qualities of Ness’s narrative. An eloquent new addition to fiction about a difficult subject matter.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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