Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

A Monster Calls

Ness, Patrick (Author)
Dowd, Siobhan (Author)
Kay, Jim (Illustrator)
Candlewick Press 2013. 214 pages
First published: 2011
ISBN: 9780763660659 (paperback)
9780763655594 (hardcover)
9780763656331 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Fantasy

Text Elements:

conflict, evocative language, figurative language, multimodal, point of view

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Conor O’Malley has a recurring nightmare: at seven minutes after midnight, he is visited by a monster—an earthen, arboreal creature—part shadow, part humanoid yew tree. Night after night, the creature, who tells Conor that the boy has summoned him, tells him stories—tales of kingdoms and murders, stories that “chase and bite and hunt.” In return for the monster’s three stories, Conor must tell a fourth one—a nightmare from which Conor always wakes in a panic. Conor’s days, we find out, are no better than his nights: his mother, who has been raising Conor alone for the past six years, since his parents’ divorce, is dying of cancer—an ordeal through which the monster ends up guiding Conor.

The ink spot, wrap and full-spread illustrations bring to life both Conor’s haunting dreams and the nightmarish situation of his mother’s illness. Many of the depictions are allegorical: a tangled chain-link fence overlooking a small church graveyard, with crows winging frantically overhead, marks the moment Conor’s mother suggests the chemotherapy isn’t working.

A prefatory note explains the dual authorship: Siobhan Dowd, who came up with the original idea for the novel while suffering from terminal cancer, died before she could write it and, at their mutual publisher’s request, Ness stepped in.

Simply but powerfully narrated in a third person that feels larger than life, with drawings that evoke the hovering twilight, this heart-rending novel reminds us that, as hard as it is to carry the suffering of one we love, it is even harder to let them go.

  •  

    Consider the double-page spread and the quotation in the prologue: “You’re only young once, they say, but doesn’t it go on for a long time? More years than you can bear.” Using both to make predictions about the story.

  •  

    In a small group, discuss the use of third person point of view and other elements of author/producer’s craft. Consider how such choices impact the story.

  •  

    The book may be included in a set of texts used for literature circles (or book club) discussions. Take time to reflect periodically during reading and discussions on the messages being conveyed.

  •  

    In literature, monsters are often symbolic of some key plot element. Skim through the pages, paying particular attention to the images, chapter titles and cover page. What might the monster(s) symbolize in this story? Discuss your answers with a partner.

  •  

    Using a graphic organizer of your choice, define the relationships between Conor and any five secondary characters as either positive (+) or negative (-). Be prepared to support your answers with passages from the text.

  •  

    Two distinct monsters are described in the novel (yew tree and nightmare). What does each monster represent? Write an explanatory essay, detailing the reasons for your conclusions. Exchange essays with a partner. Were your conclusions the same?

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To use information
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences