My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A Monster Calls is, quite simply, extraordinary. The original idea came from Siobhan Dowd and following her untimely death was carried to fruition by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay.
Ness is outstanding. It is so awfully beautifully written. A Monster Calls has an unreal feeling of being ahead of its time and a classic in the making. It is superb. Ness writes with a sympathetic, warm, dagger-sharp clarity and it is a joy – a near privilege – to be able to read this book.
Visually, A Monster Calls is beyond magnificent. It is painfully perfect. The illustrations by Jim Kay are stunning and add so much to this story. Frankly a good amount of them, if not all, can be described as genuinely breath-taking. Sometimes with a heavily illustrated book, the use of illustrations can be somewhat arbitrary and lose their impact. That’s not the case here. A Monster Calls has the strange, almost elemental quality of word and images which seem to come from the story and are not “imported” to it. It’s hard to define what I mean. I think the best analogy I can give is if you consider something like the Mona Lisa. It’s an image we’re able to see pretty much anywhere – postcards, tea-towels whatever – and accept it. The imagery in A Monster Calls is so palpably connected to the text that you can almost see its umbilical cord. The two of them are symbiotic. They need each other to live.
Books like this are not easy to read. Thematically A Monster Calls goes hard and it goes deep. When you read this, and the illustrations take you, and the prose breaks you, and you fall inside this awful brilliant book, you realise just how outstanding children’s literature can be. If this book does not live for years upon years then it will be a travesty.