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I was certain this book would be utterly boring, pathetic and like most failed horror books- totally awful. But, my thoughts couldn't of been more wrong. The storyline is very deep and comprehensive. I refused to believe it was a childrens book, it was just too good to be true. Metaphors, Similes and every other possible improvement on language is used, plus a few extra David Almond has decided to experiment with. Lots of sentences are bursting with brilliant describing words that is really incredible. You may find this unusual, but short sentences and simple words like said and then are used fairly regualry throughout the whole book. It is delibratley done because it builds up tension or effect. Also, in several parts the story switches from present to past tense. I'm not totally sure why this is done, it's got something to do with the joining of all the people (you won't understand unless you've read it). As fort he actual storyline, well here it is: Kit Watson (13) has just moved into Stoneygate (a fairly remote Yorkshire village). His family originated from the aream and his grandma used to work in the coal pits. Going back many many years ago, there was a terrible accident were many miners and children died. Now in present day, a troubled (described many times as dark) teenager called John Askew has made up a game. It's called "Death". A group of young girls and boys between the ages 12 and 14 go down into an ancient den where they play this game. You have to sip the water, smoke the cigarette and spin the knife. If the knife points to you, you are to play death. Then, you apparently die then are brought back to life again sometime later on. I don't think I could say much more without revealing the whole story. What I can say is, every part of this epic novel is excellent! I'd advise any horror fan to get their noses into this award winning book!
"'Used to get a laugh here long ago,' he said. 'Used to come at night as kids. Used to dance in a ring around the monument and chant the Our Father backwards. Used to say we'd see the faces of those old pit kids blooming in the dark.' He laughed. 'Bloody terrifying. Used to belt home laughing and screaming, scared half to death. Kids games, eh? What they like?'" Christopher Watson, aged thirteen, Kit, is just like his grandfather. He was born to tell stories. He was born to hear stories, to absorb them, to gather the spirits and the meanings of the past and to tell them on so that their sense and their truths will burnish the present and spur it on to the future. Kit's family has come to Stoneygate, an old mining village, shortly after the death of his grandmother. His grandfather's health is failing, although his bright eyes and living stories are not, and the family feel the need to be close to him and to care for him. The monument is to a pit disaster over a hundred years ago where many, including the children who worked the mines in those days. A previous Kit is engraved on it amidst the many names – Christopher Watson, aged thirteen. Above his name is another, John Askew, aged also thirteen. Another John Askew, aged thirteen, is one of the first people Kit has met at his new school. Askew is one of those dark, angry children from a troubled, "rough" family and yet Kit feels an affinity with him that is both a present one and yet also one that is something unexplainable, but surely from the past. Today's Stoneygate children have a game too: it is Askew's game, the game of Death. Though the coal mine has long been closed, it holds an understandable yet indefinable fascination for the town's children. For Kit Watson and John Askew with their peculiar, confusing affinity it holds a particular allure. Although Kit is the new boy, it is obvious that the game belongs to him and Askew more than the others, some of whom come because of the almost hypnotic intensity of Askew and some, like the vivacious bad-good girl, Allie Keenan come just for experiment. Every so often, the small bunch of adolescents troop down into the pit. There, with only the light of a candle, with knives and illicit cigarettes, they play the game of Death. "The water came to me and I sipped it. The cigarette came to me and I drew on it.... I stared down at the knife as Askew laid it on the glass. 'Whose turn is it to die?' he whispered. 'Death,' we all chanted. 'Death Death Death Death...' The knife shimmered, spinning. It spun on and on. Me, I thought, as it spun to me and then away again. Me, not me, me, not me, me, not me... And then it slowed and came to rest. Me." These are the games that children sometimes play as they seek to answer questions they're not even sure how to form. They are frightening games, but then they are often frightening questions. And after the game is played Kit doesn't feel quite the same, in his "living death" the world of stories becomes more and more real to him. Against the backdrop of his grandfather's failing health and the worry that brings his family, the trouble the discovery of the game brings, and the rehearsals for the school play as Allie takes the part of the Ice Princess, the drama of John Askew and his father is played out through Kit and his world of past stories. It is the world of Lak the Ice Age boy who searches for his lost family and protects his baby sister, the world of the ghosts of the pit children from the long ago disaster, it is Kit's world of imagination and his grandfather's world of the recent past, but it is also a world full of spirits that encroach on the "real" world of here and now. Just as Lak's mother begs Kit in his dreams to return h er child to her so does Askew's mother ask the same from him when her son disappears into the wilderness beyond the village after a terrible scene with his drunken father. Can Kit find his friend and bring him home? Will Lak's mother find her son? And are the spirits real or simply the imaginings of a sensitive child as he tries to make sense of his grandfather's dementia and approaching death and the disappearance of his friend? Those are the bones of this beautiful, slow-moving book of dreams. But just as the bones from Lak's time, long ago hold so much more in history and significance than their mere physical property so does Kit's Wilderness. There is enough in this slim, sparely-written book to fill another five volumes I think and yet it's all between the lines. Here we are asked to consider the past, and the rich nature of the experience from it which has made the present not only possible but beautiful and ours, and the future, also ours, which will bring changes we can embrace without ever forgetting the honour we should show for those past people and events. It is also a tale of redemption and the power of the bonds that human love can bring, it's a story of the darkness in the world but also the light. Almond is not afraid to show children that the meaning of joy is lessened when there is no knowledge of pain. Although sometimes frightening and often eerie, to me the distillation of those bare bones of Kit's Wilderness can be seen in the relationship between Kit and his grandfather, the sweetest relationship of all: that between a young, growing person and an old, experienced one. Its real theme is that of a kind of web of life, in which all things are interconnected – the old and the new, the past and the future, the imagination and the physical senses, and the spiritual and the earthly. It also assures us that through stories and with love we can share the things that sometimes seem so private: &qu ot;How could I tell them about the power of ghostsand stories, about the caves and tunnels in our heads, about a boy and his mother from the from the deep dark frozen past? How could I tell them about about the dead ones that surround us, about John Askew, aged thirteen, and Christopher Watson, aged thirteen? How could I tell them the truth about the pebbles that I carried in my palm? But I told them Askew's pain and fright, about his loneliness. I told them about the baby inside him that had never had a chance to grow. I told them that there was something in him and something in me that kept drawing us together." It is rare to find a writer who speaks your own truths directly at you, who crystallizes your swirling, unsure thoughts about so many things and puts them down in a book, clearly articulated, so that it seems he wrote it just for you. I seem to have found that writer in David Almond and I'm so very glad of it. I'll leave you with some words to Kit from his grandfather, they are what I'd like to say to my own children every day until they're grown and then what I'd like them to say to theirs: "What I'd like to give you most of all is what's inside. The tales and memories and dreams that keep the world alive." Yes, that's it.
“ They thought we had disappeared, and they were wrong. They thought we were dead, and they were wrong. We stumbled together out of the ancient darkness into the shining valley. The sun glared down on us. The whole world glistened with ice and snow… Who could have known that we would walk together with such happiness, after all we’d been through? It started with a game, a game we played in the autumn. I played it first on the day the clocks went back.” So begins David Almond in his inimitably evocative and powerfully descriptive style. “Kit’s Wilderness” is the second of David Almond’s wonderfully magical children’s novels. Having read his first and third thanks to their excellent reviews (read them!) here on dooyoo, and loved them both, I was half expecting “Kit’s Wildernesss” to be somehow disappointing. To say that both “Skellig” (his debut novel and winner of both the Carnegie medal and the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year!) and “Heaven Eyes” were un-put-downably readable is to understate their raw but beautiful power. For me, however, “ Kit’s Wilderness” out-magics them both….. David Almond grew up in a small pit village near the river Tyne. It was a place of “ancient coal mines, dark terraced streets, strange shops, new estates and wild heather hills” to use his own words, and a place which finds its echoes over and over again in his work. The words and the local dialect are wound seamlessly into stories which are both ancient and yet very much of today. Like a rich coal seam, they shine in the darkness which lurks at the edges of this story perhaps more than the others, waiting to be brought up and turned over and used as a source of warmth and wonder… “We came to Stoneygate because Grandma died and Grandpa was left alone. We bought the house at Stoneygate’ s edge, one of a long line that faced the wilderness and the river.” So Kit tells his story. In Stoneygate he meets Askew, the local wild boy from a family whose name has been linked with trouble for generations and begins to play the game called “Death”. Unlike his new friend Allie Keenan, who plays the game simply to learn about life for her future career as an actress, and for whom it is all pretend, Kit plays the game in earnest and begins to see the things that Askew and only a few others see. Ok, so this is a kid’s book? None of my children have read it yet, and when I’ve been asked by them what it’s ABOUT, I’ve told them they need to read it to understand, so I’m not really about to tell you what it’s about either. That’s one of the beauties of Almond’s writing – to simply recount a basic narrative falls so far short of his story-telling magic as to be almost a waste of time. He is a true story-telling genius. A real story-teller. His stories have the powerful magic of tales containing essential truths and questions. About life and death, darkness and light, goodness and badness and the meaning of collective experience and understandings crossing history and race. The power of any truly great story is to be found in what it says to the reader about themselves and their lives, in what it evokes of their history and future and the thoughts and dreams which are given flight by the words and concepts portrayed. Almond’s stories have the depth of myths and legends, stories which are told for us to wonder at and never quite be able to put into neat and definable boxes….. I love David Almond’s books. Only my 12 year old has so far caught the same magic that I see….these are books for older children. The children in Almond’s stories tend to be around 13, and the concepts are beyond what most children under 10 or 11 would be able to understand. I think it’s a shame to label these books as books for kids though. They’re some of the best books I’ve read in a long long time, and “Kit’s Wilderness” feels, perhaps more than any other, like it’s a part of me. My history too began by the Tyne. As kids we talked like the kids in this story, we lived like them in many ways, and forever I had felt somehow linked to the mining community in a strange and inexplicable way. There was a sense of belonging. I never understood this feeling until I was sorting through my father’s papers after he died. Among them I found my grandparents’ birth certificates and found that his grandfather had been a miner from a mining family – something no-one among the generations I grew up with had ever known. Dismiss is as pure coincidence, explain it away as mere wish-fulfilment, but for me there’s a link as mysterious but as real as any in Kit’s story, for this is what Kit’s story is about. The links drawing us back and simultaneously pushing us on. The links between us and our history, us and our ancestors, the ones who bore our family name, and the ones who didn’t, the ones in the stories we heard as children, and the ones in the stories we made up in our heads…. David Almond says he believes stories are living things. This one is vibrant while in part dark and repelling, sad and yet full of joy while it draws us ever on to who knows what conclusion…. Of course you could begin imagining the conclusion and what has gone before it from the first paragraph of the story which is the one with which this review begins...