A Monster Calls (paperback)
by Patrick Ness
AR Level 4.8, 5 points
Carnegie Medal (writing) and Kate Greenaway Medal (illustration)
This is the story of Conor and dealing with his mother’s illness, an unspecified, but late-stage cancer. In the beginning, we learn two things: 1) his mother is very sick, but hopeful for his sake, and 2) Conor suffers from nightmares involving his mother. However, a monstrous, personified yew tree visits him at 12:07 each night and starts telling Conor stories, and although it doesn’t seem like it, the stories help Conor deal with his mother’s failing health.
What I liked about this book was it gave us insight into what it is like for a 12 year-old boy to deal with something as big as a sick parent. I’ve had students who got into trouble because of what was going on at home, much like Conor, but none of their situations were are serious as an ill parent. It reminded me to think of what my students walk into class with in their “backpacks.” I also loved the illustrations, which really enhanced the reading experience of this story. I read that Jim Kay even used beetles to make the impressions in the illustrations, which adds to the creepiness.
What I didn’t like about this book was how heart-wrenchingly sad it was. Be warned… A Monster Calls is a great book, but it took me awhile to stop crying after I finished. It wasn’t just a few tears… it was full-blown sobbing. Think The Fault in our Stars, but if it involved a scary monster, and not so teen-angsty. I cannot imagine losing a parent, especially I had to watch my mom or dad suffer through a long, drawn-out illness. But what killed me most was the mother having to say good-bye to her son, and realize she won’t get to see him grow up, and trust that he will be raised the way I would. In the end, Conor’s mother held his hand, as well as her own mother’s hand. Ugh… I don’t even want to think about it anymore. Too sad. BUT so well-written at the same time!
I picked up A Monster Calls, because my husband’s school is voting on which book to have all of their students read, and this is one of them. They’ll have to spend a little extra on Kleenex.
Book 36 of 40 (year 2)