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The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean
Cover of The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean
The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean
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From master storyteller David Almond comes a gripping, exquisitely written novel about a hidden-away child who emerges into a broken world. Billy Dean is a secret child. He has a beautiful young mother...
From master storyteller David Almond comes a gripping, exquisitely written novel about a hidden-away child who emerges into a broken world. Billy Dean is a secret child. He has a beautiful young mother...
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Description-

  • From master storyteller David Almond comes a gripping, exquisitely written novel about a hidden-away child who emerges into a broken world. Billy Dean is a secret child. He has a beautiful young mother and a father who arrives at night carrying the scents of candles and incense and cigarettes. Birds fly to his window. Mice run out from his walls. His world is a carpet, a bed, pictures of the holy island, and a single locked door. His father fills his mind and his dreams with mysterious tales and memories and dreadful warnings. But then his father disappears, and Billy's mother brings him out into the world at last. He learns the horrifying story of what was saved and what was destroyed on the day he was born, the day the bombers came to Blinkbonny. The kind butcher, Mr. McCaufrey, and the medium, Missus Malone, are waiting for him. He becomes The Angel Child, one who can heal the living, contact the dead, bring comfort to a troubled world. But there is one figure who is beyond healing, who comes looking for Billy himself—and is determined on a kind of reckoning.

About the Author-

  • I grew up in a large Catholic family in Felling-on-Tyne: four sisters and one brother. I always knew I'd be a writer —I wrote stories and stitched them into little books. I had an uncle who was a printer, and in his printing shop I learned my love of black words on white pages. I loved our local library and dreamed of seeing books with my name on the cover on its shelves. I also dreamed of playing for Newcastle United (and I still wait for the call!). There was much joy in my childhood, but also much sadness: a baby sister died when I was seven; my dad died when we were all still young; my mum was always seriously ill with arthritis. But it was a childhood, like all childhoods, that provided everything a writer needs, and it illuminates and informs everything I write.

    After school I read English and American literature. When I graduated I became a teacher — long holidays, short days, just perfect for a writer. After five years I gave up the job and lived in a commune in rural Norfolk where I wrote a long adult novel that was rejected by every U.K. publisher. I had two collections of short stories published by the tiny IRON Press. I started another adult novel, put it aside, and suddenly, out of the blue, I found myself writing Skellig. It was as if the story had been waiting for me, and once I began, it seemed to write itself. I hadn't expected to write a children's novel, but in some way it was the natural outcome of everything I'd done before, and was the stepping-stone to everything I've done since.

    For years, I was hardly published and hardly anyone knew about me apart from a handful of keen fans. And I made just about no money at all from writing. That didn't really matter to me. I'd keep on writing, no matter what. Then I wrote Skellig, and everything changed. I began to sell lots of books, to be translated into many languages, to travel, to win lots of prizes. I've written a number of novels after Skellig, including Kit's Wilderness, The Fire-Eaters, Clay and A Song for Ella Grey. There have been stage versions of the novels, and films and an opera are on their way.

    Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:

    1. I love Japanese food — except for the thing I was given once that looked like an alien's brain.

    2. My first TV appearance was as an altar boy in a televised mass when I was eleven.

    3. My grandfather was a bookie (he took bets on horse races). His advice? "Never bet." He also told me, "Never read novels. They're all just lies."

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 28, 2013
    A boy named Billy Dean—born at the very moment terrorists blew up his town, starting World War III—narrates this mesmerizing post-apocalyptic tale from Carnegie- and Printz-winner Almond. Written in a difficult Geordie dialect, further complicated by Billy's phonetic spellings, the novel speaks feelingly to the love between parent and child, as well as the harm parents can do. Billy Dean's mother, Veronica, was seduced by the local priest; amid the carnage of the "day of doom" on which Billy is born, Father Wilfred persuades Veronica to lock the newborn in a secret back room of her small house to cover up the priest's indiscretion. Billy Dean doesn't emerge from hiding until age 13, slowly acclimating to a crumbling and unfamiliar world: "I am dazzld by the sky that has no end to it & by the numba of things that lie owt ther. I watch the way the breez moves through the rubbl & lifts the dust & how it blows the foliaj of the trees that gro up through the ruwins."

    Billy also begins to manifest strange gifts, such as contacting the dead and healing the sick, gaining a reputation as an "Ayngel Child." Eventually, people come from all over the region to beg Billy's aid or simply to worship him. Almond has much to say about the meaning of faith and the lack of it, and about the difference between a monster and a miracle worker. The bereaved and ill see the boy as little more than a shortcut to getting what they want, less a human being than a sort of miraculous vending machine. Even his most worshipful disciples are primarily interested in turning Billy into their vision of what he should be, rather than in seeing him for who he really is. And to Billy's father, lurking in the background, the boy is a very real monster whose mere existence endangers everything the faithless priest has worked for. Challenging, sometimes bloody, but completely rewarding, this is an intense story of betrayal, reconciliation, and triumph. Ages 14–up.

  • School Library Journal

    February 1, 2014

    Gr 9 Up-The opening scenes of this postapocalyptic, psychological novel describing the protagonist's confinement in a small, locked room is strongly reminiscent of Emma Donoghue's adult title Room (Little, Brown, 2010). Billy Dean's mother was seduced by an unethical priest, and young Billy is forced to suffer the consequences of their affair by being kept hidden. The compelling story is told from Billy's point of view and with the language and phonetic spelling of a child whose development has been stunted by his lifelong imprisonment. Billy's mother provides what love she can, while his father fills his head with confusing stories and warnings and expectations that the boy struggles hopelessly to fulfill. When his father disappears, Billy's mother takes him out of the room, into a frightening world at war. He finds that other adults have their own confusing expectations of him. They want him to be a savior. But Billy is no more an angel, a healer, or a conduit to the voices of the dead than he is a messiah, and the day of reckoning is soon at hand. This challenging title demands to be read more than once, and even then it will leave questions unanswered.-Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Library

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 15, 2013
    Billy Dean is the forbidden child of a priest and a hairdresser, born in the English village of Blinkbonny on a day of terrible destruction and locked away for all his 13 years. Much to the chagrin of his tempestuous, estranged father, Billy Dean struggles with words: "He wos a secrit shy & thick & tungtied emptyheded thing." He's a lonely boy, longing for his father's rare visits, muddling through Bible stories, and scratching out letters and pictures on dried-out mouse skins with blood-mixed ink. When Billy's lovely Mam finally exposes her son to the war-ravaged "shattad payvments" of Blinkbonny, Billy is overwhelmed...and utterly wonderstruck. Local medium Missus Malone has her own plans for Billy, and as rumors spread of "The Aynjel Childe" and his power to cure the sick and speak to the dead, the boy becomes another kind of prisoner entirely. Skellig-creator Almond's books are always mystical--close to the warm, dark heartbeats of man and beast--but this one, spelled mostly phonetically to show how Billy Dean might actually have written it, is perhaps even more raw, sensuous and savage. Dark, unsettling and fluid as water, Almond's suspenseful tour de force considers the cycle of life, themes of war, God and godlessness, and, as ever, "How all things flow into each other." (Fiction. 14 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from December 1, 2013
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* At the very moment the bombs of the next war began exploding on the island of Blinkbonny, a child was born: Billy Dean, whose birth was seen by his priest father as a miracle. Hoping to raise a saint, his father ordains that the boy be brought up in secret. Then, when Billy is 13, a family calamity forces him to take his first steps into the light. From the first page, readers will know they're in the presence of a master of dialect He grew up with birds & mise as friends. He wos a secrit shy & thick & tungtied emptyheded thing. Almond's command of Billy's struggling English is a tour-de-force, even when the plot wanders away from full engagement. It is, at least, a passionately unusual story, involving Billy's speshal site, which is co-opted by a local spirit medium. Soon Billy is a reluctant Ayngle Childe, whose fame as a healer begins to spread off of the island. Throughout, Almond's details are fierce and bizarre, from the book Billy crafts from rat skins to the fragments of a Jesus statue he and his mother uncover from church ruins. Both of Billy's parents are powerful charactersone of light, one of darknessand, of course, there is Billy himself, an absolutely unforgettable creation. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: One of the most critically acclaimed YA authors working today, Almond refuses to rest on his laurels, and here he delivers his finest book in years. Expect raves, then demands.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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    Candlewick Press
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