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A Monster Calls

by Patrick Ness and Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
Illustrated by Jim Kay

Published by Candlewick Press, 2011
224 pages
ISBN: trade 978𢠩636-55594

Ages 11-14

Since his mom抯 cancer diagnosis, Conor has been having nightmares in which he struggles to rescue her as she dangles from a cliff in a storm. Then a monster shows up in Conor抯 yard one night, but it抯 no dream. The fierce and demanding figure insists that Conor listen to three stories in the coming days before telling a fourth story himself. Conor抯 mother is hospitalized, and he must stay with his stern and rigid grandmother. At school he feels helpless against a boy who bullies him. And over the course of a number of nights, the monster returns, telling tales revealing complexities of human emotion and behavior that make it impossible to clearly judge characters as good or bad. Patrick Ness, completing a story conceived by Siobhan Dowd before her death from cancer, goes well below the surface layer of pain in this intricate exploration of grief. The bully story梐nd how it reveals Conor抯 wish to be punished梐s well as Conor抯 feeling of invisibility, are beautifully unveiled, while Conor and the people in his life are richly developed. The monster, an initially menacing figure, ultimately is a comforting one, helping Conor accept the truth that his mom is dying and acknowledge the need to let go in a novel that transcends realistic fiction even as it remains firmly grounded in the emotional, psychological, and physical realities of Conor抯 life. Jim Kay抯 haunting black-and-white illustrations masterfully reflect the emotional chaos of the story.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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