A Movie, and Legacy, for Children

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
August / September 2016

When the fantasy film A Monster Calls (with Liam Neeson in a voice role) opens in October, it will present an opportunity for moviegoers to not only get lost for a few hours in a magical world, but also to recall the inspiring life of Siobhan Dowd.

monster coverDowd was born in England to Irish immigrant parents. She lived in England as well as New York City, while also spending lots of time with family in Waterford and Wicklow. All the while, Dowd wrote acclaimed novels such as Bog Child and A Swift Pure Cry.

Sadly, at the age of just 47, Dowd died of breast cancer in 2007. Before she died, Dowd had come up with a new book idea about a boy, living in present day England, whose mother was also suffering from cancer.  The boy is visited every night by a monster who tells him stories.

Dowd was unable to complete the book.  However, fellow author Patrick Ness picked up the idea and completed the story. In the end, A Monster Calls – both the book and the forthcoming movie – are credited as “from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd.”

Also before she died, Dowd established the Siobhan Dowd Trust, which “works to give young people the opportunity to read and enjoy literature.”

The group’s mission is to “take stories to children and young people without stories” and also to “bring the joy of reading and books to children and young people deprived of access to books and of the opportunity to read.”

Finally, the trust funds and supports “disadvantaged young readers where there is no funding or support.”

Asked by the Guardian about the emotions of writing A Monster Calls based on Dowd’s idea, Patrick Ness said: “I wouldn’t have taken it on if I didn’t have complete freedom to go wherever I needed to go with it…. [B]ecause I know that this is what Siobhan would have done. She would have set it free, let it grow and change, and so I wasn’t trying to guess what she might have written, I was merely following the same process she would have followed.” ♦

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