Ten-year-old Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister is ill, his parents are frantic, and Doctor Death has come to call.
- Costa Book Awards
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.) -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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1 . I loved this book
Posted November 11, 2010 by Bethany , OttawaI really didn't know what to expect when I began this book. I certainly wasn't expecting what I found. This is a book about: being overwhelmed by life, reaching out to do what you can to help others when (because?) you can't do anything to help yourself, the realities of friendship both positive and negative, belief in and acceptance of the unknowable because the alternative is crushing and stifling....
It's spare, observant, and emotional without being mawkish. This is the kind of book I wish I'd found when I was actually a "young adult." Reading it now, I found it moving and wonderfully crafted. Reading it then, it would have been a revelation.
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
December 31, 1997
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Excerpt from Skellig by David Almond
I FOUND HIM in the garage on a Sunday afternoon. It was the day after we moved into Falconer Road. The winter was ending. Mum had said we'd be moving just in time for the spring. Nobody else was there. Just me. The others were inside the house with Dr. Death, worrying about the baby.
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. He was filthy and pale and dried out and I thought he was dead. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'd soon begin to see the truth about him, that there'd never been another creature like him in the world.
We called it the garage because that's what the real estate agent, Mr. Stone, called it. It was more like a demolition site or a rubbish dump or like one of those ancient warehouses they keep pulling down at the wharf. Stone led us down the garden, tugged the door open, and shined his little flashlight into the gloom. We shoved our heads in at the doorway with him.
"You have to see it with your mind's eye," he said. "See it cleaned, with new doors and the roof repaired. See it as a wonderful two-car garage."
He looked at me with a stupid grin on his face.
"Or something for you, lad -- a hideaway for you and your pals. What about that, eh?"
I looked away. I didn't want anything to do with him. All the way round the house it had been the same. Just see it in your mind's eye. Just imagine what could be done. All the way round I kept thinking of the old man, Ernie Myers, that had lived here on his own for years. He'd been dead nearly a week before they found him under the table in the kitchen. That's what I saw when Stone told us about seeing with the mind's eye. He even said it when we got to the dining room and there was an old cracked toilet sitting there in the corner behind a plywood screen. I just wanted him to shut up, but he whispered that toward the end Ernie couldn't manage the stairs. His bed was brought in here and a toilet was put in so everything was easy for him. Stone looked at me like he didn't think I should know about such things. I wanted to get out, to get back to our old house again, but Mum and Dad took it all in. They went on like it was going to be some big adventure. They bought the house. They started cleaning it and scrubbing it and painting it. Then the baby came too early. And here we were.