Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Monster Calls

A Monster CallsTitle: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness (inspired by Siobhan Dowd)
Illustrator: Jim Kay
Publisher: Canldewick Press
Publication Date: September, 2011
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: 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.

What Jen Thinks: A Monster Calls is actually a book I have reread before! I first read this book the summer before it was published when an ARC made its rounds to many Twitter friends. I reread it in January? when Colby and I discussed it for our Read Along on I-94. I knew he had not read it and I was determined for him to read it so it was my first choice for him to read.

A Monster Calls is excellently written. I adore this book. It is very sad and it made me weep for the characters and for myself and my family. The book is written in such an honest way that I felt connected to Conor. The poor kid really doesn’t have things going his way. Ness walks a fine line between writing a story where the character has to deal with too much and where the character deals with just enough that it’s heart-wrenching yet believable. He gets it just right.

On a literary level, this book is also remarkable. While telling Conor’s story, Ness also tells the story of the monster. He weaves in folklore as the monster comes to tell his stories to Conor. I reread and reread the stories that the monster tells to really figure out what the monster is telling Conor through the stories. The stories themselves are rather dark but they speak to the feelings Conor is experiencing as he worries about his ailing mother.

This book is the most cathartic book I have ever read. I was so sad to read it but at the same time I learned so much about people and how we deal with and overcome stress and sadness and loss. My heart broke for Conor but it was also rewired after reading this book. I remember my husband finding my sobbing uncontrollably, almost to the point of hyperventilating, and being worried about me. He tried to stop me from crying but I had to explain to him that it was the best cry I had ever had. I felt completely cleansed after finishing the book. 

What Kellee Thinks: After reading this book, the 5 stars of other books just don't seem justified. This little book is a piece of genius: the idea is genius (thank you Siobhan), the prose is genius (thank you Patrick) and the artwork is genius (thank you Jim).  

Also, I had a hard time putting it on the fantasy or horror shelf (although it is) because it is the most real book I've read in a long time.  Books make me emotional very rarely (though it has been happening more often recently) and this one makes me cry even thinking about it. But it also made me laugh and be frightened.  It truly is a journey.  A rocky, scary, psychological journey for the reader as well as our protagonist, Conor.  

Conor is a boy that is going through one of the hardest things any child could go through: his mother has cancer.  On top of that, his parents divorced and his father is too busy with his new family to pay attention to Conor. Also, Conor doesn't exactly have the most pleasant time at school. At this point, he is okay being invisible.  But then the monster calls. It comes shortly after midnight.  It is not a monster that Conor fears, but the monster wants what Conor fears the most: the truth. 
Read Together: Grades 4 to 8 
Read Alone: Grades 6 to 10
Read With: Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac
Snatch of Text: 
"Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt." (p. 35) 
"Stories are wild creatures, the monster said.  When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreck?" (p. 51) 
Mentor Text for: Suspense, Predicting, Making Connections, Descriptive, Asking Questions
Writing Prompts: The monster comes to Conor each night to help him realize the truth. What is 
Topics Covered: Grief, Cancer, Fitting In, Emotions, Folklore, Family, Friendship, Love
We both *heart* it 

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