A Monster Calls

By Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd

Illustrated by Jim Kay

An extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss.

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming... The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

Categories: Fiction

For readers aged: 12+

  • Publication details:
  • Format: Hardback
  • ISBN: 9781406311525
  • Published: 05 May 2011
  • Price: £12.99
  • Size: 208 x 162 mm
  • Pages: 216

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Customer reviews


'For days I’ve been thinking of how to review this title, I’m having trouble. No amount of words, superlatives or other, seem good enough. From an idea by Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness has written something very special. Even after turning the last page and putting the book away weeks ago, the story of how Conor is dealing with his Mother’s illness still lingers in my mind, and fresh tears spring to my eyes. This is so poignant and tender, but at the same time, truly wonderful.' Chicklish

'the illustrations provided by Jim Kay. They devour whole pages and creep insidiously through the text adding atmosphere and beauty, creating a book that is a joy to hold as well as to read...Patrick Ness has taken the idea first realised by Siobhan Dowd and created a heart-wrending story that is a true honour to her name. I highly recommend A Monster Calls and all previous by both authors – these are writers that truly encourage the reader to confront the deeper meanings in every day life. Stunning.' Mountains of Instead

'I loved Conor's voice throughout this book. He is so innocently raw throughout the tale and is always trying to help out his mum and do his best for her. I have my own theory about the monster and what it represented in the story but that's something I won't tell you about because I wouldn't want to spoil this marvellous little book for anyone. All in all a beautifully heartbreaking little tale which will make you both laugh and cry.' The Overflowing Library

'Authentic and moving...a beautiful object, filled with Jim Kay's ominous, inky illustrations.' The Irish Times

'Powerfully felt, this is stylistically Ness’s book, but communicates Dowd-like wisdom. Both realistic and magical, it is a fable about the complexity of our emotions, giving us permission to feel anger and illuminating the nature of loss.' The Sunday Times

'The monster’s three tales are complex and ambiguous and help illuminate real life’s lack of black and whites, much like the overall story is doing. The novel is very impressive at a conceptual level, in the sense that it comments on what it hopes to achieve (on what it most certainly does achieve): here’s a story communicating things that are too raw and uncomfortable and painful for straightforward conversations, and inside it you have tales that very consciously do the exact same.' Things Mean A Lot

'I don’t know what I was expecting from A Monster Calls but it most certainly wasn’t this…this explosive awesomeness. I did not expect this book be this exceptional and there is really no better word for it. How can a book be about lessons without being about lessons? How can a book be subtle and yet so completely obvious? How can a book be funny and yet so tremendously sad? How can a story be so kind when it deals with such harsh realities? How can a book speak about humanity in general and about one person in particular and make sense and connect both in all of their greyness?How can a book have so many truths inside its pages that it makes me feel like it was written for ME? I don’t know. I just know that A Monster Calls is all of those things and more. It is superb in its storytelling as it celebrates storytelling itself as the Monster tells his stories. It is unforgettable as it follows a young boy dealing with the saddest thing of all: the prospect of losing a mother. It is hopeful and beautiful even as it leads to the liberal production of heartfelt tears.' The Book Smugglers

'And he certainly has. A Monster Calls feels like neither a Dowd or a Ness, which is probably for the best. It’s like having a baby; you get a little of both and it’s surprising how well the two go together...I mentioned there are pictures. The illustrations by Jim Kay are suitably menacing, and fit the story perfectly.' Bookwitch

'A Monster Calls takes Dowd's preliminary idea, and draws out of that bud a tale that has nothing of the hybrid about it. Quite the contrary: the story, the writing and Jim Kay's pictures are a single stunning entity, organic and vital. Received wisdom dictates that books published for children need endings that are, if not exactly happy, then at least hopeful. A happy ending would have been a betrayal of the kind of bracingly honest book this is, but hope can be hard to come by in such a story. Here the desperate honesty and refusal to compromise do allow for a sort of brutal clarity to emerge, and from that finally a glimpse of something like hope. Brave and beautiful, full of compassion, A Monster Calls fuses the painful and insightful, the simple and profound. The result trembles with life' Independent

'Award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd died of cancer before she could write this book, but the choice of Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Trilogy) to take her idea and create this heartbreaking story was inspired. It is an intensely raw but emotionally rewarding rite-of-passage for young teenager Conor, whose divorced mum is dying of cancer. Using folklore stories to illustrate that good and bad are all part of the whole, the tree monster drags the reluctant Conor to confront his own demons and, in doing so, to face the future. The conclusion is brave, honest and a huge release. Stunningly illustrated, this haunting and demanding book shines with compassion, insight and flashes of humour and is a collaboration that highlights the exceptional talents of Ness, Dowd and Kay. A worthy tribute.' Daily Mail

'This is an extraordinary book, and I dont use the word unadvisedly. Ness describes this battle with a savage articulacy that paradoxically renders Conor's inarticulacy incandescent. This is a painful tale, nut one that resounds. The illustrations, by Jim Kay, are dark and prickly: the perfect accompaniment to Conor's troubled mind.' Literary Review

'I don't think anything that I will say about this book will do it one ounce of justice. This is beautiful story, touching, sometimes funny, often harrowing to a point that is almost unbearable. Taking on someone else's idea cannot be easy when you are a writer, and one must applaud Patrick Ness not only for having the guts to do it, but for doing such a formidable job of it. '...it worked so wonderfully, because Ness did not try to echo Dowd's style but rather did her idea justice in his own. His writing is direct and harsh, but filled of empathy and emotion. He has such a unique voice; there is just nobody else that can write like Patrick Ness. The book is heavily illustrated by Jim Kay and the artwork works perfectly with the text, bringing the sinister, harrowing atmosphere of the story to life. Walker have surpassed themselves, again, on the book design; it is a beautiful book,which really stands out. Patrick Ness has taken Siobhan Dowd's original idea and with it has created a beautiful, emotional and moving novel which will stay with its readers long after they have turned the last page. Go read this book.' Library Mice

'Death casts a long and allegorical shadow over this evocatively illustrated, at times lyrical, tale. Electrifying and hugely readable, it feels like a genuine act of authorial kindness when the gut-wrenching ending conveys a glimmer of redemption.' Daily Telegraph

'Ness says it was like being handed a baton and being told to run. Well, he ran fast and he ran with grace...The book has the thrills and the ambition you would expect from the author of The Chaos Walking trilogy...It's also an extraordinarily beautiful book. Kay's menacing, energetic illustrations and the way they interact with the text, together with the lavish production values, make it a joy just to hold in your hand...The point of art and love is to try to shortchange that grim tax collector, death. Ness, Dowd, Kay and Walker have rifled death's pockets and pulled out a treasure.' The Guardian

'In a beautifully produced edition with brooding and chaotic illustrations by Jim Kay, this is a short but searing story of opposites: a queen who can be both a good witch and a bad witch, a prince who can be a murderer and a saviour, a boy who wants his mother to live while also longing for her to die.' The Guardian Online

'Children often tell me they like sad books. Perhaps they enjoy a tear-jerker in the same way they enjoy being scared by a ghost story, but there is much, much more to A Monster Calls than the fact that it would make a stone doorstep weep...A book that will be of immense value for bereaved children, A Monster Calls is about the human condition itself, but it does not contain a single didactic syllable.' Books For Keeps

'Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss for young adults.' Primary Times Group

'Prize-winning author Patrick Ness shows exceptional sensitivity in this hauntingly touching story . . . How he [Conor] finds the strength to face the end when it happens is both utterly shattering and deeply satisfying.' Guardian

'A powerful story, made unforgettable by Jim Kay's inky illustrations' Guardian

'Amazing' SAGA Magazine

'For a stand out book for teenagers look no further...An extraordinary, moving novel about coming to terms with loss. With stunning illustrations from Jim Kay .' Daily Express

'An original, emotional and beautiful novel. Ness is a master at eliciting an emotional response from his audience...It will stay with the reader long after they have finished the final line.' The Use of English (The English Association Journal for Tachers of English)

'an astonishing and engrossing book' The School Librarian

'definitely one of my favourite books of the year' Guardian

'An original, emotional and beautiful novel. Ness is a master at eliciting an emotional response from his audience...It will stay with the reader long after they have finished the final line' The Use of English

'a triumph' Good Books Guide

'One of my favourite books ever!' Books for Keeps

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