In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness (inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd and illustrated by Jim Kay)

“Every time the monster moved, Conor could hear the creak of wood groaning and yawning in the monster’s huge body.”

In her review for the New York Times, Jessica Bruder refers to A Monster Calls as, “A story that lodges in your bones and stays there.” 

This, I believe, is an understatement. 

I am afraid my words, mere pixels on the screen, cannot begin to honor how truly special this book is.

From his words in the Author’s Note, Patrick Ness held me spellbound.  Siobhan Dowd had developed an idea for a book about a monster and a boy whose mom had cancer.  Breast cancer cut her life short and she was unable to finish her story.  Patrick Ness, when asked to craft something from the seed of a story Dowd left behind said, “…the thing about ideas is that they grow other ideas.”  And so, A Monster Calls was born out of Dowd’s seed and Ness’s nurturing.

I suppose a book with that kind of conception was bound to be incredible, but I am sure not even the editor who entrusted him to write it could have guessed just how perfect a story Patrick Ness was capable of crafting.

The only thing that stopped me from all-out sobbing through the last 50 pages of the book was that I couldn’t read through tear-blurred eyes, and I didn’t want to miss a single word.

That is not to say, though, that this is a sad book.  It is; sure it is.  It couldn’t be about a young boy whose mother has cancer without being sad, but it is so much more than that.  It is clever, wittily humorous, beautiful, thought-provoking, inspiring, hopeful, and honest. 

If I could gift every one of you with a book, I would choose this one.  It is a reminder of what it means to be human.  It is a reminder of the power of story.  And it is truly a celebration of all that ink on a page, both in images and text can be. 


  1. It is truly beautiful, but also so hopeful that someone can finally work out the challenges of the monsters. So much conversation could happen with this book. I wish someone could hold a book group with it. Thanks, Christy.

  2. Thank you Christy for reviewing this. It is on my list and has now moved to the top!

  3. Wow, that is a powerful review! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I've heard wonderful things about this book. Glad to hear you liked it.

  5. What a great idea. The impact you had on the students while you had them has extended into their later grades. That's quite a testimonial to how good teachers are remembered long after the students leave. I had a 5th grade teacher who later moved to 7th grade and I got her again. She was tough as nails but we all loved her---called her Old Ironsides. She introduced me to Johnny Tremain and I still remember it 55 years later as if it were yesterday.

  6. Gifting this book - your review has. I think I am going to have to read this, but in the sunshine months. Your review is encouraging and wonderful.

  7. Wow - what a remarkable genesis for this book... and a powerful review. Thanks. thanks as well for being part of the 2012 Comment Challenge!
    Keep on commenting,