Newest Review: ... the head of the reader fortunate enough to have not yet faced the type of situation it tackles, it will just be a story about nightmares ... more
A Monster Calls - Sit Up and Take Notice!
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Member Name: LynP
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Advantages: Compelling - and a must read for any child care professionals
Disadvantages: Dark subject matter
A quality Young Adult Novel that will not dissapoint and will stay with you long after you have read it.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, based on an original idea by the novelist Siobhan Dowd. Who lost her own battle with cancer before she could write the story. A Monster Calls is in many ways a typical example of contemporary children's literature of the genre that tackles hard hitting issues. Yet, although the genre is based on realism and current times the book also incorporates myth and fantasy together with folklore and the supernatural. Illustrated throughout with stunning drawings by Jim Kay the book also falls into the Picture Book genre. A Monster Calls the first book to win both the Carnegie Award for outstanding writing and the Kate Greenaway Award for illustration and did so in 2012; it also won the Galaxy National Book Award in 2011 and the Red House Children's Book Award in 2012.
A mix of realism, fantasy, horror and supernatural with definite Celtic and Nordic influences A Monster Calls tackles its issues with ease and fluidity. Interestingly, however, it is not typical of either Siobhan Dowd's or Patrick Ness' usual styles. In common with many children's books A Monster Calls works on two levels - for those that face bereavement it lets them know that it is OK to be selfish sometimes, OK to want the pain to end, not to feel guilty. If it is not relevant the deeper meaning will probably go straight over the head of the reader fortunate enough to have not yet faced the type of situation it tackles, it will just be a story about nightmares and monsters and trees that talk and come to life. For the child going through anything like the scenario that Conor faces or for those supporting such a child, the beautiful third party narration sensitively keeps the reader close to the protagonist, Conor, yet he is a tense ball of emotion, the reader never getting to know his character, unlike for example Harry Potter, in J K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, who the reader soon learns is an orphan and different to ordinary boys.
A Monster Calls begins 'The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.' (Ness, 2011, p 11). Straight in, no scene setting; no character building; straight into the crux of the story; instantly grabbing the attention of the reader. A Monster Calls is full of suspense; there is plenty of drama in turning the page, the scene as well as this eagerness to turn the page is further set by Kay's moody illustration, which captures the suspense and the fantastical elements of the story brilliantly. Conor's nightmares began shortly after he learns of his mothers diagnoses of cancer. The reader learns on the first page that his father is absent and that Conor is being brave for his mum; that he feels alone. The invisible boy who wants to be visible, the visible boy who wants to be anonymous. Conor does not want the attention, the pitying glances, he kicks back at authority; he is singled out by the bullies and lashes out at the one child who tries to help. All the time not facing up to what is really happening to his mother.
As a contemporary children's story A Monster Calls fits current trends well, serious life issues are tackled in the last twenty years in a way that children's fiction would not have done previously.
Siobhan Dowd won the Carnegie medal with Bog Child in 2009, three of her four other published books A Swift Pure Cry; The London Eye Mystery and Solace of the Road were also novels for children and also tackle difficult subjects, the other was a co-edited book of Romany poems. Dowd's own final book Solace of the Road bares a striking similarity to A Monster Calls in its subject matter; Holly finds her stepmother's oncology wig and puts it on to become a different person, with the wig she becomes Solace, she runs away, thumbs lifts and tries to come to terms with her issues. Holly does so, on her own, luck and coincidence feature heavily and like so many children's books before it, the story is built around a journey. Solace of the Road tackles contemporary issues with flair and insight. The comparison doesn't quite end with the illness, A Monster Calls is all about a boy coming to terms with his mother's mortality; whereas Solace of the Road is about growing up, both have elements of Irish influence and both fit well in the twenty first century teenage fiction genre. Patrick Ness wrote the Chaos Walking trilogy and in common with Dowd, is a previous winner of the Carnegie Medal with Monsters of Men the third in the trilogy. This trilogy falls into the science fiction genre and has nothing in common with A Monster Calls apart from being imaginatively well written by the same author. In his introduction to A Monster Calls, Ness is quick to point out that he never met Siobhan Dowd, but knew and admired her work.
Ness cleverly uses a Yew Tree as the monster in the tale; the Yew has a long tradition in ancient Druid, Celtic and Nordic folklore, many believing that the famous Nordic tree of life is a Yew.
In A Monster Calls, the reader knows the monster is going to call again and like Conor soon realise it will probably be at 12.07. The monster is a monster, he rips open the roof and smashes through the window, so he must be bad mustn't he? 'What do you want from me? Conor said. The monster pressed its face close to the window. It's not what I want from you, Conor O'Malley, it said It is what you want from me.' (Ness, 2010, p 40). Gradually, as the story progresses Conor needs the Yew Tree Monster; he learns something of its healing powers and begs it to heal his mother.
Should be a must read for all practitioners coming into contact with child bereavement, including TA's, SENCO's as well as Social Health Care workers. I am also sure it is only a matter of time before it reaches the Psychology A level wider reading list and then becomes an essential part of the course materials.
NB. All quotes taken from A Monster Calls, Ness P, (2011).
Summary: An amazing book that I read first in one sitting. A must read.