David Almond is twice winner of the Whitbread Children's Book Award. His first novel, SKELLIG, won the Whitbread Children's Award and the Carnegie Medal. His second, KIT'S WILDERNESS, won the Smarties Award Silver Medal, was Highly Commended for the Carnegie Medal, and shortlisted for the Guardian Award. THE FIRE-EATERS won the Whitbread, the Smarties Gold Award and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. David is widely regarded as one of the most exciting and innovative children's authors writing today, and his books are bestsellers all over the world. He lives with his family in Northumberland.
British novelist Almond makes a triumphant debut in the field of children's literature with prose that is at once eerie, magical and poignant. Broken down into 46 succinct, eloquent chapters, the story begins in medias res with narrator Michael recounting his discovery of a mysterious stranger living in an old shed on the rundown property the boy's family has just purchased: "He was lying there in the darkness behind the tea chests, in the dust and dirt. It was as if he'd been there forever.... I'd soon begin to see the truth about him, that there'd never been another creature like him in the world." With that first description of Skellig, the author creates a tantalizing tension between the dank and dusty here-and-now and an aura of other-worldliness that permeates the rest of the novel. The magnetism of Skellig's ethereal world grows markedly stronger when Michael, brushing his hand across Skellig's back, detects what appears to be a pair of wings. Soon after Michael's discovery in the shed, he meets his new neighbor, Mina, a home-schooled girl with a passion for William Blake's poetry and an imagination as large as her vast knowledge of birds. Unable to take his mind off Skellig, Michael is temporarily distracted from other pressing concerns about his new surroundings, his gravely ill baby sister and his parents. Determined to nurse Skellig back to health, Michael enlists Mina's help. Besides providing Skellig with more comfortable accommodations and nourishing food, the two children offer him companionship. In response, Skellig undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis that profoundly affects the narrator's (and audience members') first impression of the curious creature, and opens the way to an examination of the subtle line between life and death. The author adroitly interconnects the threads of the story‘Michael's difficult adjustment to a new neighborhood, his growing friendship with Mina, the baby's decline‘to Skellig, whose history and reason for being are open to readers' interpretations. Although some foreshadowing suggests that Skellig has been sent to Earth on a grim mission, the dark, almost gothic tone of the story brightens dramatically as Michael's loving, life-affirming spirit begins to work miracles. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
. . . gripping, beautiful and brilliantly written . . . Everyone is raving about this unforgettable book. - THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPHTouched with a visionary intensity, this strange, hugely readable and life-affirming tale exercises every muscle of the imagination. - THE GUARDIANA stunning debut . . . An extraordinary book. - THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
Gr 5-9‘Exploring a tumbling-down shed on the property his family has just bought, Michael finds Skellig, an ailing, mysterious being who is suffering from arthritis, but who still relishes Chinese food and brown ale. Michael also meets his neighbor Mina, a homeschooled girl. When she's not trying to open his eyes and ears to the world around him, she is spouting William Blake. As Michael begins nursing Skellig back to health, he realizes that there is something odd about his shoulders. Together, he and Mina move Skellig to a safe place, release the wings they find on his back from his jacket, and look after him until he eventually moves on. Throughout the story, readers share Michael's overriding concern for his infant sister, who is gravely ill. In the end, little Joy comes home from the hospital safe and happy and Michael's life has been greatly enriched by his experiences with her, Skellig, and Mina. The plot is beautifully paced and the characters are drawn with a graceful, careful hand. Mina, for all her smugness, is charmingly wide-eyed over Skellig. Michael is a bruising soccer player but displays a tenderness that is quite touching and very refreshing. Even minor characters are well defined. The plot pivots on the question of what Skellig is. It is a question that will keep readers moving through the book, trying to make sense of the cleverly doled out clues. The beauty here is that there is no answer and readers will be left to wonder and debate, and make up their own minds. A lovingly done, thought-provoking novel.‘Patricia A. Dollisch, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA
Gr 5-9-Two lonely children form a bond when they secretly take on the care of a crusty, otherworldly old man living in a ramshackled garage. A mystical story of love and friendship. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.