Hang on. Let me wipe this wetness from my eyes.
I don’t know what most affected me about this book: the author’s posthumous influences, the endearing story, my mother’s tenure in the oncology ward, or my own near-death experiences. Maybe it’s just a blend of everything, but maybe it’s the author’s perfect capturing of childlike endearment in witnessing familial misfortune.
While this book may be billed as children’s literature, the themes are mature. But isn’t that the very nature of life? Simple, but complex?
For anyone hesitating on purchasing this book because of monsters or fantasy, please do not. Some of the best stories and life lessons are told through allegory and fanciful tales. Think about Mother Goose and Aesop, are they not the same? Herein is a very well told tale that will resonate with you on many levels: truthfulness, self-evaluation, and family relation. But, you may say, it’s about a monster visiting a kid at night—it can’t be THAT deep. It is. And then some.
“Stories are wildly creative, when you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak.” And so tells the monster to the boy protagonist. As the book unfolds, we are brought into the boy’s fickle balance at home and school. The monster comes to visit him at night, telling him three stories, asking a fourth to be told by the boy himself. As the stories progress, we learn more about what truly haunts the boy and find out who is calling whom. Each story scratches a lesson upon the heart, as we learn that there is not always a good guy, right may sometimes seem wrong, and the importance of being honest with oneself. As the monster says, “many things that are true feel like a cheat.”
For parents evaluating this book for their own children, there are some complex topics to be aware of. I didn’t find any graphic violence or use of profanity. However, there is a small paragraph referencing nudity and premarital sex (not graphic; done in taste). There is also mention of a man leaving his wife for another woman. The topics that may cause the most discussion are cancer and the potential early loss of a loved one. As for the “monster”, while intimidating in illustration and description, the most frightening element may be that of the truth that lies within.
Speaking of illustrations—please DO NOT get the Kindle version; the Kindle version does not show the wonderful drawings. This book is the first and only to get double awards for both the written content and illustration. The illustrations are perfect throughout. They set the scene and atmosphere. One of my critiques of The Graveyard Book was not having enough illustrations. Instead, A Monster Calls is the perfect mix of art, both written and drawn. Without it, you are missing out on the complete experience.
Will this book make you cry? Probably. Is it worth it? Absolutely.