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A Monster Calls: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd

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A Monster Calls: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd Cover

ISBN13: 9780763655594
ISBN10: 0763655597
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: None
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Awards

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd-- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself-- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

Review:

"In his introduction to this profoundly moving, expertly crafted tale of unaccountable loss, Ness explains how he developed the story from a set of notes left by Siobhan Dowd, who died in 2007 before she had completed a first draft. 'I felt — and feel — as if I've been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go. Run with it. Make trouble.' ' What Ness has produced is a singular masterpiece, exceptionally well-served by Kay's atmospheric and ominous illustrations. Conor O'Malley is 13. His mother is being treated for cancer; his father, Liam, has remarried and lives in America; and Conor is left in the care of a grandmother who cares more for her antique wall clock than her grandson. This grim existence is compounded by bullies at school who make fun of his mother's baldness, and an actual nightmare that wakes Conor, screaming, on a recurring basis. Then comes the monster — part human, part arboreal — a hulking yew tree that walks to his window just after midnight and tells three inscrutable parables, each of which disappoints Conor because the good guy is continually wronged. 'Many things that are true feel like a cheat,' the monster explains. In return for the monster's stories, Conor must tell his own, and the monster demands it be true, forcing Conor, a good boy, a dutiful son, to face up to his feelings: rage and, worse still, fear. If one point of writing is to leave something that transcends human existence, Ness has pulled a fast one on the Grim Reaper, finishing the story death kept Dowd from giving us. It is a story that not only does honor to her memory, it tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth about life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight. Ages 12 — up. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

CN

About the Author

Patrick Ness is the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling Chaos Walking trilogy. He has won numerous awards, including the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, and the Costa Children's Book Award. Born in Virginia, he lives in London.

Siobhan Dowd spent twenty years as a human rights campaigner for PEN and Amnesty International before her first novel, A SWIFT PURE CRY, was published in 2006. She won the Carnegie Medal posthumously in 2009 after her death at the age of forty-seven.

Jim Kay studied illustration and worked in the archives of the Tate Gallery and the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, two experiences that heavily influence his work. His images for A MONSTER CALLS use everything from beetles to breadboards to create interesting marks and textures. Jim Kay lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 8 comments:

Beverly B, January 14, 2013 (view all comments by Beverly B)
"The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. Conor was awake when it came." What middle grade reader is going to resist this opening? A Monster Calls is a great story with outstanding illustrations. There is very little I can say about the story without ruining it, but I can say this: It is not a horror story even though the illustrations of the monster look like something from a horror movie. It is written in the style of a fairy tale, but it is heart-breakingly realistic. The characterization of the monster is so carefully developed, it reads almost like a fantasy story, but it is not. The protagonist,Conor, will grab the reader's attention, affection and loyalty. Students who read this book with friends or in a book group will have some excellent in-depth discussions mostly centering around "What was the monster really?" But, there will also be excellent discussions about events a few kids have dealt with and most kids have worried about. A Monster Calls is a very quick read which makes it a perfect choice for reluctant readers, literature circles and whole class reading. The story is so compelling that avid and gifted readers will enjoy it just as much as reluctant readers. Older readers may be able to identify the monster easier, but maybe not. That is why this book is so perfect for group reading.
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Beverly B, January 14, 2013 (view all comments by Beverly B)
"The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. Conor was awake when it came." What middle grade reader is going to resist this opening? A Monster Calls is a great story with outstanding illustrations. There is very little I can say about the story without ruining it, but I can say this: It is not a horror story even though the illustrations of the monster look like something from a horror movie. It is written in the style of a fairy tale, but it is heart-breakingly realistic. The characterization of the monster is so carefully developed, it reads almost like a fantasy story, but it is not. The protagonist,Conor, will grab the reader's attention, affection and loyalty. Students who read this book with friends or in a book group will have some excellent in-depth discussions mostly centering around "What was the monster really?" But, there will also be excellent discussions about events a few kids have dealt with and most kids have worried about. A Monster Calls is a very quick read which makes it a perfect choice for reluctant readers, literature circles and whole class reading. The story is so compelling that avid and gifted readers will enjoy it just as much as reluctant readers. Older readers may be able to identify the monster easier, but maybe not. That is why this book is so perfect for group reading.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
lilianxcheng, August 11, 2012 (view all comments by lilianxcheng)
One of the hardest reviews I've ever written, not because I turned into the waterworks like many others, but because the novel left me largely ambivalent: I didn't want to hurl it out the window, but neither did I want to shove it under people's noses. The most frustrating part of it is that I don't know what's "wrong" with it. A Monster Calls was an original, haunting, and emotional piece of art. I can definitely see why people love it, with the exception of The New York Times who called it "darkly funny"--there's nothing remotely funny about your mother dying and a 20-feet tree monster threatening to eat you up, but each to their own I guess. I believe without a doubt that its double Carnegie Award win is well-deserved. However, it just didn't strike a chord with me like it did for many others. I suspect it's because I haven't experienced grief to Conor's magnitude or I'm secretly a heartless robot.

Story, Slightly Predictable but No Less Unique:
The only gripe I can come up with is the story's predictability, we already know early on what the story is trying to say, but a delight to read nonetheless. It's about 13-year old Conor waking up to a yew tree monster at 12:07. Surprisingly, Conor isn't scared of the monster, and the monster tells him three tales in return for one of Conor's tales in return. We later find out that the monster is tied into Conor's reality as he struggles to come to terms with his mother's terminal illness.

I enjoyed the slight fairytale aspects of the story and how it parallels with Conor in reality. And sometimes those lines collide and the monster manifests itself in Conor's life (sometimes I wonder if the monster is a product of Conor being mentally unstable.)

Conor and The Monster:
I find the story reveals most about Conor during the monster's tales. We see Conor's young, naive perspective in his reactions to morality, and what ought to happen. The monster's stories are pretty transparent, even though he pretends to be a jerk half the time with his half-truths so he can go like "you thought I meant this didn't you, but you didn't listen closely did you? Muhahaha!", but perhaps Conor is still too young to understand them without further guidance that the monster often says more than necessary. I rather have Conor come to conclusions on his own.

Conor is as complex (if not more) of a character as the monster in his own right. We see Conor full of hate: he wants to wallow in his grief, he blames his best friend when the school treats him differently. We also see him struggling to find his place in the world without his mother, when his father already has his own family thousands of miles away and when his grandmother seems austere in her fancy tailored pants.

Everyone is already making plans to move on, while Conor is stuck at a standstill. As the monster claims, humans are full of contradictions, and even young Conor is not immune. He dislikes sympathy, but he also takes advantage of it. He knows his mother's condition, but he wills himself to believe otherwise. He constantly blames himself for letting his mother go, longing for someone to punish him for his imperfect thoughts. There's a lot of weight on his shoulders.

Symbolism, I Can See It On Its Way To Literary Canon:
I desperately need to discuss this book with someone. I WANT TO ANALYZE THIS THING TO A PULP, just to soak out its hidden meanings, and to unravel its many layers. I feel it embodies so much more than what meets the eye. The entire story is just rich with symbolism.

Of course, the monster is just brimming with mystery and multiple interpretations (I've seen reviews that claim the monster is a manifestation of Truth or of Grief, while I see him as Judgment) but also Harry the bully (I felt Harry was helping him rather than bullying him, and at one point I felt Harry might've been a manifestation of the monster) is an enigma himself. And why 12:07? Why not midnight? Surely the chimes of midnight are much more frightening, no?

"What You Think Is Not Important. It is Only Important What You Do.":
To comfort Conor when he discovers the "evil" in his human thoughts, the monster tells him, "What You Think Is Not Important. It is Only Important What You Do." I found myself questioning if I could accept that, especially from the same monster who proclaimed belief to be so important, this quotation seemed to contradict his previous "lessons." I believe that what you think is more important than what you do, because what do actions mean if there aren't intentions behind them (as the monster's stories reveal)?

I may be straying too far from its intended meaning. Perhaps it only means that our thoughts are always shades of gray, filled with unintended contradictions, and thus can't be trusted as much as actions.

Being Inspired by Siobhan Dowd Must Do Wonders for Writing:
I've just finished Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go a week ago, and while I had no complaints about his writing, A Monster Calls takes it to another level. Ness's lyrical prose shines more than it ever did in The Knife of Never Letting Go, more than I thought possible. The imagery is hauntingly beautiful and I found myself repeating sentences aloud just to hear the words dance off my tongue. The scene were the monster forms from the yew tree branches is just begging to be read out loud.

Overall, I found A Monster Calls to be thought-provoking and a poignant masterpiece with lyrical writing and delightfully complex characters. It's a surprisingly unique addition to the YA genre. But I just didn't feel emotionally connected to it, leaving me ambivalent in the end. However, I can say without a doubt its praise is not without merit. Don't be fooled by the illustrations or the children's book feel, this novel is not simple.

On the other hand, the cover is ever more awesome without the dust-jacket.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780763655594
Author:
Ness, Patrick
Publisher:
Candlewick Press (MA)
Author:
Kay, Jim
Subject:
Family - Parents
Subject:
Children s-General
Subject:
Children s Young Adult-Social Issue Fiction
Subject:
cancer;death;grief;fiction;fantasy;young adult;bullying;monsters;ya;loss;nightmares;horror;family;mothers;england;death of a parent;teen;magical realism;divorce;children s;illness;monster;children;fear;boys;mothers and sons;contemporary;young adult fictio
Subject:
cancer;death;grief;fiction;fantasy;young adult;bullying;monsters;ya;loss;nightmares;horror;family;mothers;england;death of a parent;teen;magical realism;divorce;children s;illness;monster;children;fear;boys;mothers and sons;contemporary;young adult fictio
Publication Date:
20110931
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1-COLOR
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.5 x 6.63 x 0.8 in 1.4125 lb
Age Level:
from 12

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A Monster Calls: Inspired by an Idea from Siobhan Dowd Used Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages Candlewick Press (MA) - English 9780763655594 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In his introduction to this profoundly moving, expertly crafted tale of unaccountable loss, Ness explains how he developed the story from a set of notes left by Siobhan Dowd, who died in 2007 before she had completed a first draft. 'I felt — and feel — as if I've been handed a baton, like a particularly fine writer has given me her story and said, ‘Go. Run with it. Make trouble.' ' What Ness has produced is a singular masterpiece, exceptionally well-served by Kay's atmospheric and ominous illustrations. Conor O'Malley is 13. His mother is being treated for cancer; his father, Liam, has remarried and lives in America; and Conor is left in the care of a grandmother who cares more for her antique wall clock than her grandson. This grim existence is compounded by bullies at school who make fun of his mother's baldness, and an actual nightmare that wakes Conor, screaming, on a recurring basis. Then comes the monster — part human, part arboreal — a hulking yew tree that walks to his window just after midnight and tells three inscrutable parables, each of which disappoints Conor because the good guy is continually wronged. 'Many things that are true feel like a cheat,' the monster explains. In return for the monster's stories, Conor must tell his own, and the monster demands it be true, forcing Conor, a good boy, a dutiful son, to face up to his feelings: rage and, worse still, fear. If one point of writing is to leave something that transcends human existence, Ness has pulled a fast one on the Grim Reaper, finishing the story death kept Dowd from giving us. It is a story that not only does honor to her memory, it tackles the toughest of subjects by refusing to flinch, meeting the ugly truth about life head-on with compassion, bravery, and insight. Ages 12 — up. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , CN
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