Book Review: A Monster Calls


This powerful illustrated novel about love, fear, and grief, is not always easy to read. Conor O'Malley's mother is undergoing chemotherapy treatments while he faces cruel bullies at school. Add into the mix an officious grandmother and a deadbeat dad. Conor's only real confidant is his imagination, which appears each night at 12:07 in a nightmare and in the form of a frightening monster, the yew tree in his backyard. The 'monster' tells him dark fairy tales loaded with ambiguity and prompt him to deal with his own fears grounded in the real world. The story juxtaposes Conor's painful reality with these equally frightening fantasy segments. In dealing with his mother's deteriorating condition, Conor becomes violent. In this short, dark novel, we are drawn into his sad experience in a way I haven't been drawn into characters' lives since reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
This is a novel rich in language and dark, gripping illustrations. Dedicated to a children's author Siobhan Dawd, who died in her 40s, this is a stand-out story, challenging in its dark themes and imagery, but beautiful and sad nonetheless.

reviewed submitted by Mrs. K Walker



allison girard