Oh monster, my monster

As I start writing this, it’s 12.15am. In about six and a half hours I will be crawling out of bed to make a Pokémon cake for my nephew’s 10th birthday, before he arrives for a day of being spoiled. (‘What flavour?’ ‘Pokémon flavour!’ Vanilla will have to do.)

Anyway, he and his mum and her boyfriend came over earlier this afternoon. He fed the dogs lettuce until they were near ready to mug him for his pasta. He became best friends with Dog 1, who pinned him down with a paw and attempted to clean his head. After that they were inseparable. Dog 2 – less boisterous, likes her space – wagged her tail from a safe distance.

At some point in the evening he looked up at our mantelpiece, where everything gets stacked in a way that could be considered ‘decorative’ over the fake fire that we never plug in, and spotted my A Monster Calls print.

A-Monster-Calls-616x403

like this. (OBVIOUSLY, this is an illustration by artist genius Jim Kay)

That print was my first (possibly last) ‘big’ art buy, after I met Jim Kay’s agent at a launch Q&A (I think) for the book, with Kay and Patrick Ness.  2011. It was clear, then, how completely this story – this publication – would be a classic.

‘Look!’ says Nephew. ‘That’s the monster from A Monster Calls! It’s a good book.’

‘Yes, it is’ I say, meaning both yes, it is the monster, and yes, it is a good book. ‘That picture’s signed by Jim Kay, the illustrator.’

Nephew looks at me with great satisfaction. ‘I’ve got the book, and it’s signed to me, by both of them.’

‘I know,’ I say. ‘I got it for you for your second birthday. I think they thought I was a bit nuts, asking to have a book signed for a two year old.’

‘I wasn’t two!’

‘You were.’

I’m not sure he believes he was ever really two, but he smiles happily and leans back into his seat, goes back to his game. And I think – it doesn’t matter who got the book. It’s his – his story, signed for him, and always has been in his life as much as he remembers it.

And tomorrow he’s ten, and he’ll be rereading that book when he’s 20, and I hope it’s battered and loved and the ink has faded slightly, and that whenever he comes across it or any reference to it, he has a little jolt of special-ness – I have that book, and it was signed for me, and I have always owned it.

I am kicking myself – we peaked at birthday presents when he was two years old.

Books are brilliant, though.

Life After Books: Atkinson, Donoghue and Ness

Oh, heavens. I just realised that technically speaking the whole ‘New Year’ entry was a special edition so I’m still supposed to write one this week, preferably before the evening is over.

I don’t want to wake up early to go back to work tomorrow. I want to wake up early to walk the dogs, do all the little things I need and want to do, and settle in to write some stuff. January blues, hey ho. I just need a patch of actual blue in the sky or some such cheerfulness in the morning to make things seem a bit better. Or just some sleep. And a few hours to finish reading Patrick Ness’s More Than This.

No, no, don’t tell me what happens. I received a good haul of literature for Christmas – and, purely by coincidence, it’s set me on a fantastic streak of stories that make you question reality and the permanence of life as we know or understand it. But all in different ways, and all brilliant. Continue reading