The Short Life of Siobhan Dowd: Background information when reading A Monster Calls

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A Monster Calls

Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

by Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2011, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2013, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Short Life of Siobhan Dowd

Print Review

The seed for A Monster Calls came from Siobhan Dowd (pronounced sh-vawn), a gifted writer who earned critical and popular success for her young adult fiction and received much praise for her work speaking out against censorship. She brought authors into underprivileged schools, made literature accessible to children around the globe, and led numerous community projects.

Siobhan Dowd Her first novel, A Swift Pure Cry (2006), was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize and the BookTrust Teenage Prize, and her subsequent novels - The London Eye Mystery (2007), Bog Child (2008), and Solace of the Road (2009) - have earned her dozens of awards.

Dowd spent much of her career working for both the English and American branches of PEN ("poets/playwrights, essayists, novelists"), an organization whose initiatives include "promotion of literature, international campaigning on issues such as translation and freedom of expression, and improving access to literature at international, regional, and national levels."

With over 145 centers around the world, the PEN organization strives to safeguard the freedom of speech and endorses the power of literature by sponsoring literary awards and festivals, author lectures, prison writing programs, and assisting persecuted writers by publicizing their struggles.

Though Dowd had been writing since childhood, publication came late in a life shortened by breast cancer. She passed away on August 21, 2007 (at the age of 47) after receiving treatment for advanced breast cancer for three years. According to her website, Siobhan "did not go gentle into that good night." Shortly before her death, she set up The Siobhan Dowd Trust to help fund groups that bring stories to disadvantaged children and young adults. All of the royalties from her novels now go to support this fund.

To learn more about her extraordinary life, read her obituary in The Guardian (UK).

Article by Stacey Brownlie

This article was originally published in October 2011, and has been updated for the March 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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