I recently had the pleasure to read A Monster Calls by author Patrick Ness. Although this wonderfully written, unique book is designated as a children's fantasy novel, it is a story for all ages.
The main character in the story is 12 year-old Conner, who lives with his mother, who is suffering from cancer. Every night, Conner is visited by a giant monster who has formed from a yew tree near the graveyard, with branch-like arms, who tells him stories to help him understand and deal with difficult life issues.
Conner has more than his fair share of hardships including an absent father, a cantankerous grandmother, and a fierce group of bullies at school.
This is not a happy story, but it is a valuable one. It's a story about facing your fears and learning to accept changes in your life.
Using humor as a safety net, Ness navigates the reader through a gauntlet of emotions including rage, pity, love, loneliness, hope, and sadness. The haunting illustrations, by Jim Kay, echo the mood beautifully.
A movie based on A Monster Calls, with performances from Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, and Liam Neeson, is due for release in 2016.
On February 7, 1812, little Charles John Huffam Dickens entered the world. Born in Portsmouth, England to John and Elizabeth Dickens, he was one of 7 children.
Dickens' childhood was not one of toy soldiers and balloons. When he was only 12, his father was sent to Marshalsea debtors' prison. His mother and younger siblings went to live there as well, as was the custom at the time. Charles stayed with a family friend, Elizabeth Roylance, and worked 10 hour days for a whopping six shillings a week, wrapping and labeling pots of boot blacking. When he reached the ripe old age of 13, he began clerking at a law firm.
These unpleasant early experiences affected Dickens in a huge way and spilled into his novels, creating stories about workhouses, debtors prisons, working-class people, legal system bureaucracy, orphanages, poverty, and families that were anything but "close-knit".
Dickens wrote many of his his novels in serial fashion, producing a chapter a week for readers who would never be able to afford the cost of a book in its entirety.
In 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth. He managed to have 10 children in a marriage that he later found to be unsatisfactory.
Although Dickens is most famous for his novels, he also wrote and acted in several plays. In fact, his acting received rave reviews. His interest in the theater also lead him to a certain indiscretion in his life named Ellen Ternan, a young actress who was just 18 when Dickens was 45. The resulting separation from his wife, in 1858, caused turmoil within his entire family.
Dickens died from a stroke, June 9, 1870, at the age of 58. Although he wanted a simple burial, he was buried in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abby.
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