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Kit's Wilderness


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About the Author

DAVID ALMOND grew up in a large family in northeastern England and says, "The place and the people have given me many of my stories." His first novel for children, Skellig, was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and an ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book and appeared on many best book of the year lists. His second novel, Kit's Wilderness, won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.


Gr 6-9-The haunting otherworldliness that distinguished Skellig (Delacorte, 1999) also permeates this book. After the death of his grandmother, 13-year-old Kit Watson moves with his family to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town, to take care of his elderly grandfather. He forms a tentative friendship with John Askew, who is ridiculed because of his father's public drunkenness and inability to care for his family. In the wilderness area near their town, John organizes an after-school game called "Death," in which Kit and other friends lie alone in an abandoned mine waiting for visions of children who died there long ago. After school officials discover the game and expel John, he disappears. Kit, a budding writer, crafts a story about a prehistoric boy who becomes separated from his family. The story parallels the emotional incidents in John Askew's life and incorporates elements of stories Kit's grandfather has told him about the mines. John's mother pleads with the boy to bring her son home at the same time as the mother in the story Kit is writing appears to him, pleading with him to return her missing children. John resurfaces and, with Kit's help, rejoins his family. Grandpa dies, but Kit is committed to keeping his memory and his stories alive. Almond artfully brings these complicated, interwoven plots to a satisfying conclusion as he explores the power of friendship and family, the importance of memory, and the role of magic in our lives. This is a highly satisfying literary experience, showing readers that some of life's events are beyond explanation.-Ellen Fader, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Revisiting many of the themes from Skellig, Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism and allegory. He opens the novel with a triumphant scene, in which Kit Watson, the 13-year-old narrator, and his classmates, John Askew and Allie Keenan reemerge from "ancient darkness into a shining valley," as if to reassure readers throughout the course of the cryptic tale that the game of "Death," so central to the book, is indeed just a game. Nevertheless, he takes readers on a thrilling and spine-tingling ride. When Kit moves with his mother and father to the mining town of Stoneygate to keep company with his newly widowed grandfather, he feels drawn to John Askew who, like Kit, comes from a long line of coal miners. Askew presses Kit to take part in a game of "Death," for which the participants spin a knife to determine whose turn it is to "die." The chosen one then remains alone in the darkness of Askew's den, to join spirits with boys killed in a coal mine accident in 1821. Some regular players consider the game to be make-believe, but Kit senses something far more profound and dangerous, and the connection he forges with the ancient past also circuitously seals a deeper bond with Askew. Allie acts as a bridge between the two worlds, much as Mina was for Michael in Skellig. The ability that Askew, Kit and his grandpa possess to pass between two seductive worlds, here and beyond, in many ways expands on the landscape Almond created in Skellig. The intricacy and complexity of the book's darker themes make it a more challenging read than his previous novel for children, but the structure is as awe-inspiring as the ancient mining tunnels that run beneath Stoneygate. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Almond . . . creates a heartbreakingly real world fused with magical realism . . . suffusing the multilayered plot with an otherworldly glow." -- Booklist, Starred

"Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism and allegory." -- Publishers Weekly, Starred

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