I need to retract my suggestion for last week. I suggested “A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness. It is a great book but my call on reading it aloud needs to be clarified. I had not read the whole book yet and this is the origin of my mistake.
Last week I wrote, “…is the perfect read-aloud for children ages eight and older. Do you have the grandchildren for the weekend? It will take three to five readings to finish. Picture a windy night with the moon ducking in and out of the clouds and you reading to everyone by the flickering campfire.”
I gave the impression that the book is a fluffy read. I encouraged grandparents to share it as a story of a boy and monster who become friends. I had readers vision a Boy Scout leader reading the book around a campfire to eager ears.
I want to reiterate that this is a great book. After the first encounter with the monster, our hero, Conor, wakes most nights at 12:07 a.m. without an alarm. It might be banging on his window or falling in his nightmare, but every time he wakes at the odd hour the monster is looming. As monsters go, this one is friendly but has an explosive temper.
After they chat a couple of times an agreement is made between the two. The monster will not harm his home as long as Conor listens to his three stories. Afterwards, Conor must tell him a story back. The monster states, “Stories are important...They can be more important than anything. If they carry the truth.” When the time comes, Conor’s story must be truthful.
In last week’s book talk, I alluded to Conor’s frail mother. She finished a third set of treatments and maybe she woke him needing help. If you thought cancer, you were correct. The truth the monster needs to hear in Conor’s story is the same truth that makes this book so powerful. Conor’s mother is dying and he must deal with her death. His reality is the truth.
Ah, not the fluffy read I lead you to believe. This is a tough book and I was crying like a baby in the end. Not really the scene you want around a campfire or amongst your grandchildren, especially if you are the one reading it aloud.“A Monster Calls” by Ness is full of truths. The quotability of the book is astounding. The disturbing theme and equally disturbing monster, begs the question. Who is scarier? For the monster states, “Stories are the wildest things of all. Stories chase and bite and hunt.”