I read both A Monster Calls and Pearl Verses the World this past weekend- there was a lot of crying involved. The sort of crying where you persist in reading because the prose calls to you, yet you find it difficult to read the tear-blurred text. I feel both A Monster Calls and Pearl Verses the World are strong texts (I keep thinking about A Monster Calls, both the story and illustrations won't leave my head) but now I'm off to read something funny.
A Monster Calls
by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd, illustrated by Jim Kay
Candlewick, September 27th, 2011
Jim Kay's Dark, deep, and haunting cover immediately captivated my attention and promised a dark tale. The darkness of the tale comes from Conor's current regards for the worlds. His mother has cancer and the treatments don't seem to be working, his former best friend told everyone that his mother is sick, and his grandmother seems intent on coming round to help his mum. But the worst are the nightmares. Then, at 12:07 one night, a monster shows up. This monster is not the one from his dream, rather an ancient storyteller who wants the terrifying truth from Conor. Jim Kay's illustrations of the monster capture the dark shadows of just after midnight and the sketchy smears of a not dreaming, not waking experience. His textures, splatters, and lines make visible the emotional turmoil Conor experiences, splashing it onto the page. Though I sobbed through the hour and a half it took me to finish this novel, I persisted in reading through my tears, desperately needing to know what would unfold, and wanting to submerge myself in Patrick Ness' glorious prose.
Pearl Versus the World
by Sally Murphy, illustrated by Heather Potter
Candlewick, August 23rd, 2011
This is what you give the child who is too old for the explanatory picture books on death or would like some beautiful poetry. Told in unrhymed verse, Pearl Verses the World is the story of a young girl who is watching her grandmother slowly die. Living with her mother and her grandmother for her entire life, Pearl's household is three people, and two people will not be the same. Pearl writes because "A poem comes //when it is needed// and writes itself// in the way it needs//to get it's point across." Through her writing, Pearl learns that two will be okay, and that the world is not against her. Poems, Pearl learns, are a way to process, and they sometimes bring the sweet surprise of friends.
Sally Murphy strikes that perfect balance between what to say and what to suggest. Her expert handling of the text and Peal's emotions is reminiscent of Patricia MacLachlan's stunning work. Pearl Verses the World is a little gem that should be waiting on bookshelves for that someone who needs it.