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A sick mother, a grandmother with whom he shares a cold relationship, bullies at school, an absentee father, and a yew tree that transforms into a monster at his window every night. How is Conor, a boy of 13 years, supposed to cope with it all? The monster insists that it was Conor who summoned him and he must tell Conor three stories; Conor will have to tell the monster his story in the end. Conor knows the truth the monster is seeking, and he does not want to articulate it.
This novel by Patrick Ness is inspired by author Siobhan Dowd, who suffered from terminal cancer. Before she could put her idea on paper, Siobhan passed away and the publishing house got Patrick to write the story. The illustrations are in shades of black and grey and represent the bleakness of Conor’s emotional landscape.
The stories that the monster tells are messy, of situations beyond the traditional good and evil, unexpected outcomes and tough decisions. Through the stories, Conor learns to confront his own fears. Though it is not mentioned anywhere,we learn that his mother is terminally sick with cancer. Conor must accept the inevitable – that his mother will die, and there will be changes in his life.
Deeply moving , harrowing and compassionate, this book had me in tears.
A Monster Calls was published as a book for children, but since then it has become a mandatory read for families confronted with loss. The book has won many awards, all well deserved. It is a phenomenal piece of writing.
A Monster Calls
224 pages, Candlewick
Available as print, audiobook and ebook on Amazon and other online stores, and in print in bookstores