Thursday, 12 September 2013

A Monster Calls: Using literature in education

I went to NET2013 (Network for Healthcare Education Conference) last week. There were good keynotes and many excellent presentations from colleagues from across the globe. I want to write about one of the sessions by Kate Powis a lecturer and researcher from St Helena Hospice. She told us about a book that she uses in her teaching of practitioners about bereavement in young people. It's called 'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness and is about Conor, a boy whose mother is dying of cancer who meets a monster who wants Conor's 'truth'. It is an amazing book with atmospheric drawings which have been highly acclaimed and I loved the feeling of holding the book in my hands. For me, though, the written story was what made the impact. I wept as I came to the final part of the story and could really see how young people may find strength through its reading.

Some of the messages that came to me through its reading (and I promise not to give the story away as I want you to read it too!) were:

- the difficulties that some young people may have with their peer relationships when their home circumstances are so different to those of their friends.

- the beautiful love of a mother for her son expressed in ways that may not be easy to understand until much later.

- the way a young person might be treated as 'different' by their teachers and how this can make a person more vulnerable than they already were.

- the way in which young people might keep their feelings hidden - feelings that need to be discussed so that misinterpretations are avoided.

- the way that anger is expressed and then perceived by others, but that the anger is about something totally different to what it has been directed to.

- the need for all of us to talk to our children about loss, bereavement, death.....

I am sure that if you read it you will find many other things. I will read it again. Here is Patrick Ness talking about the book on the radio.

Kate has invited me to go along to one of her sessions where she uses the book as an educational tool. I look forward to being inspired again.


  1. I am a nursing educator from Philadelphia. I feel that this is an issue that needs to be discussed. I had a student who was caring for a patient dying from cancer. I could tell he was not comfortable. When I asked him why he was acting in a certain matter, he informed me that he took care of his mother who had died from the same form of cancer only three months prior. I wish that he would have expressed this to me sooner. I feel that younger generations do not always express their feelings easily.

  2. Sorry for the very late reply Kelly....
    I completely agree with you, and your point about our students potentially having their own bereavement issues is an important one. Thank you :)

  3. Ruth,
    I think the Bereavement issues are becoming more prevalent amongst our students. We just had another incident where a student had to give CPR, then wrote a 7 page journal to us (we use journaling as a tool) elaborating on the emotions he felt because he had to use CPR on his mother when she died. It was eye opening for me!

  4. Literature builds experience. Human being expands their perspectives through sensational experiences. They visit new places, increase new-fangled experiences, and meet up new people. They hear about the times of yore as well as the present and learn about a selection of cultures, including their own. They determine the common goals and comparable emotions found in people of all times and places.