Reading guide for A Monster Calls by Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness

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A Monster Calls

Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd

by Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2011, 224 pages
    Mar 2013, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. "You're a good boy," Conor's mother tells him. "I wish you didn't have to be quite so good" (page 17). What does she mean by that? Why does Conor have to be so good?

  2. How does the monster describe itself to Conor? Where does the monster come from? What does it want? Do you think that the monster is real, or is it a product of Conor's imagination? What does Conor think?

  3. Lily was once Conor's closest friend, but now he can't forgive her. Why? Is he right to feel betrayed? How do most people behave around Conor once they learn about his mother's illness? What would you have done in Lily's situation?

  4. "Stories are wild creatures," the monster says. "When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?" (page 51). What does the monster mean by this? In what ways does the rest of novel prove the monster's point?

  5. Discuss the role that humor plays in this novel. Where are the best comic moments? Describe the monster's sense of humor. Would you enjoy the monster's company?

  6. "Sometimes people need to lie to themselves most of all," the monster tells Conor (page 62). Is Conor lying to himself about his mother's illness? Is his mother lying to herself? What does each of them need to believe? Why?

  7. Look closely at the illustrations. How do they capture the tone of the novel? How do they express the range of Conor's emotions?

  8. Who is the hero of the monster's first tale? Who is the villain? How does the story keep surprising Conor? What does Conor hope to learn from the story? What does he actually learn?

  9. Discuss Conor's relationship with his father. What have they shared over the years? Why does Conor want to live with his father now? Why does his father say no?

  10. In the monster's second tale, whose home is destroyed? Why? What does the story inspire Conor to do? Why does he enjoy doing it? How does Conor's grandmother respond to his actions? Why?

  11. Conor's monster appears to him in the form of a giant yew tree. What is the medicinal value of the tree? How effective is it as a treatment for his mother's illness? Why does she want to believe it will help?

  12. Harry, the school bully, looks straight into Conor's eyes and says, "I no longer see you" (page 145). Why is this such a cruel thing to say? How does Conor make himself impossible to miss?

  13. Describe Conor's recurring nightmare. How does it usually end? What changes when the monster demands the truth? What is more painful to Conor than the death of his mother? Why does he need to be honest?

  14. At the very end of the novel, what does Conor say to his mother? Why must he say it? Why must she hear it?

  15. The authors' note explains that Patrick Ness wrote this novel based on an idea from Siobhan Dowd. Why was Patrick Ness initially reluctant to take on the project? What persuaded him to change his mind? Even though it's impossible to know for sure, do you believe Siobhan Dowd would have liked the finished book? Why or why not?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Candlewick Press. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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