A Monster Calls wins the Carnegie Medal

In my humble opinion, A Monster Calls deserves to be the monster hit it seems to have become, despite the initial reluctance on the part of some gate keepers who found it too dark and too sad for children. It is sad. It is dark.  How could it not be?  It’s the story of a thirteen year old boy whose mother is dying. Frankly, children sometimes need to read dark, sad books.  Sometimes children have to deal with terrible things in their lives; the loss of a parent, bullying, poverty, rejection.  Reading about sad things that happen to a protagonist in a book can make a child feel less alone.  It can help children whose lives have not been touched by strife understand and empathize with those who have been less fortunate.

I’m thrilled that A Monster Calls has just won the Carnegie Medalfor it’s author, Patrick Ness.  As well, illustrator Jim Kay was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustrations. No book has ever won both prizes since the Greenaway was first awarded in 1956 (the Carnegie has been around since 1936).

I truly wish this book were around when my husband was dying.  It would have been the kind of book I would have read with my three children.  I suspect it would have helped all of us get through that difficult time.  And, it would have been the kind of book I’d have recommended to their friends and families.  Sometimes books about sad things can do a world of good.

A Monster Calls


I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness based an idea Siobhan Dowd had when she was dying of breast cancer.  I loved everything about it.  But be warned, you’ll want to have a box of tissues handy when you read it.

I don’t want you to think this is a one note band sort of book.  It’s a complex story about family, friendship, and bullying in addition to exploring the way in which young  people come to terms with death.  It’s a story that embraces realism as well as the dreams and the interplay and tensions between the two.

I am disappointed that this wonderful book hasn’t received more attention, but I’m not all that surprised. For starters, it’s about thirteen year old Conor whose mother is dying of cancer.  This is a difficult subject, and one that does not speak to every reader. It’s also an illustrated text, which some young adult readers may be inclined to shy away from, yet the story is rich and complex. This in turn leads to the question as to which category this powerful story best fits into; middle grade or young adult. It really is a book whose point of view is firmly grounded in childhood even while the main character is on the cusp of being a young adult. I’m sure that the question of where to shelve it has been much discussed in both libraries and bookstores.  I suspect that creative booksellers and librarians shelve it in both spots, but most books don’t cross over quite so well when it comes to awards.

Still, A Monster Calls is one of the most compelling books I’ve read recently and I do hope it finds it’s way into the hands of young people on both sides of the intermediate and young adult spectrum. Awards are wonderful for bringing a book to the attention of readers. But, this is one of those books that probably won’t win many awards even though it is brilliantly written and illustrated. Instead, it will likely be reliant on astute librarians, teachers, and other adults to put it into the hands of young readers who will most benefit from it.