Monacello - The Little Monk

Author: Geraldine McCaughrean
Illustrator: Jana Diemberger

Age: 8-10
RRP: £7.99
ISBN: 9781907912030
Publication Date: 28-04-2011
Format: Pb, 206mm x 150mm
Extent: 64 pages

A haunting legend from the Undercity of Naples

“Devil!”   “Goblin”   “Gremlin!”   “Demon!”

Strange little creature. Strange pale eyes, so full of fear. Strange little monk, his habit black as nightmares, his surplice grubby as spilt milk. Strange little boy shaped like a question mark, who are you?

Intrigue, superstition and adventure feature in the first book of a trilogy set in the dark world of medieval Naples and brought to life by spectacular double-spread graphic artwork.  An orphaned boy is dressed as a monk and ostracised by everyone except the roaming wild cats of the Undercity for his scary looks and his ability to make bad things happen. Monacello searches above and below ground, determined to solve the mystery of his parents.

After he encounters friendship from a little girl with a mysterious background of her own, it seems he can also bring good luck - a bringer of fortune; a wish granter. When a case of mistaken identity brings near disastrous consequences, this little monk must shake off his bad luck for good...

The Author says...

I visited a friend in Naples, and she showed me the city’s best secret – its Undercity: a gloomy, buried world of ruined houses and streets. Then I found out Naples has a secret inhabitant too – part-good, part-bad; a bringer of good luck and trouble; a boy with a sad history of his own. Legends like Monacello’s date from a time when stories were not just for children; when they hovered in everyone’s brain, somewhere between made-up and true.    

I never cared much for wicked villains or superheroes. Monacello is a mixture of sun and shadow – like we all are. My sort of hero.

Geraldine McCaughrean has written over 150 books for children and best-selling titles Peter Pan in Scarlet, the only official sequel to Peter Pan, published in 2006; The Death Defying Pepper Roux (2009); and White Darkness (2008). She has won every major children's book prize: the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in 1989 for A Pack of Lies, and she is the only author to have won the Whitbread Award three times.


"This story is very unique. It is beautifully illustrated with a very eye-catching cover. It tells the story of Monacello the little monk, searching for his mother in Italy after being abandoned as a baby. Raised to be poor, dirty and ugly, the city folk deem him to be ‘bad luck’ and the Devil. It runs along with a great textual rhythm and the plot is simple but imaginative, moving and absorbing all in one. Perfect for children and adults. The landscape within this world will stay with you for days. I really look forward to reading the sequels."
"There are so many poignant and poetic gems scattered throughout this haunting tale. The quality of McCaughrean’s writing is stunningly original and the effectiveness of the descriptive, emotive language, creates a multi-layered and memorable story. Combined as it is, with stylish and atmospheric illustrations, Monacello has all the qualities of a classic fairy-tale. The themes of sadness and loneliness are woven so elegantly through the action-packed storyline that they burrow into the reader’s heart, in the same way as the sadness of Monacello and Napolina seems to seep into the heart of the city, affecting even the well- water, so that it brings tears to horses “blue-brown eyes”. Unforgettable."
Ruth Doyle Water, Armadillo Magazine
"McCaughrean’s reworking of a classic Italian folk story reads aloud wonderfully with its tale-teller’s seeming simplicity and its frequent alliterations and internal rhymes. The menacing illustrations of Jana Diemberger, an artist of Italian/Austrian upbringing, will also invite shared talk between listener and reader. Her choice of viewpoint is often startling and dramatic. The dark, crater-eyes set in the pale moon of the foundling’s face haunt the pages.  Only once is that face lit by a wan smile when Monacello has reached out to warm Napolina’s icy sadness....Designed with such care, this layered tale will demand to be revisited many times."
Books for Keeps, Issue No. 189
“Your book is breathtaking and mind blowing. We love it so much!”
Comment from Year 4, at Queensbridge primary school, Pop Up Festival’s Booklinks project, 2012
"This is a really beautiful book. Geraldine McCaughrean is clearly an incredibly talented author and the story of the bewildered monk-like little boy searching in vain for his mother in the grime of Naples is really compelling. But what made the book so special for us as a family were Jana Diemberger's glorious illustrations which really bring the book to life and do not disappoint, living up to the haunting and enticing front cover artwork. It has been a main feature at bedtime and we cannot wait for the sequel when it is issued later this year."
Reviewer, Amazon UK

Press Coverage:

“This is a dear and most beautifully produced book about a little monkish child. Absolutely beautifully designed, produced and illustrated... it’s a beautiful collaboration...

It’s written in McCaughrean’s ineffably wonderful, lyrical, but somehow deceptively simple style and it’s about Monacello’s effect on the community around him. I think it would be a beautiful gift for a particular kind of reader but I do recommend it highly.”

Radio New Zealand, ‘Children’s Books With Kate De Goldi’, 10th December 2011

"Think of your average children’s picture book and loveable monsters, fluffy animals and shiny trains probably spring to mind. An odd little creature-boy causing mischief in medieval Naples almost certainly does not. Mind you, the creator of Monacello The Little Monk isn’t your average illustrator. In fact Jana Diemberger is an Italian-born, multi-tattooed boxing champ, and the story of how she came to the profession is something of a fairytale itself. [...] “It was so exciting,” she [Jana Diemberger] says. “I didn’t know it would definitely happen; I’m really proud of it.” And proud she should be; with its delicate, haunting images, Monacello is the kind of book that stays with you long after you’ve closed it.”

Cambridge Evening News, ‘Why Jana’s illustrations are proving a knockout’, 16th May 2011. 

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