* Prices may differ from that shown
Skellig by David Almond
This book is written from the perspective of a young boy, in my estimation about 10 years old but it doesn't actually tell you.
He is at school and has recently moved to a new house with his parents and new baby sister who is sick and in and out of hospital. He didn't really want to move, he was happy at his old house with his friends close by. Now he is in a house that needs significant remodelling as the previous occupant was old and died there.
His little area of salvation from the day-to-day trials and tribulations of being a child comes in the form of the outbuilding. This is almost derelict and his parents warn him it will collapse if he goes in, but children being children this only enhances his curiosity. In the corner is a noise "he" is there sat against the wall in a dusty suit eating spiders and dead bluebottles. Is it a person? Is it a figment of his childhood imagination? I have not figured out yet.
The chapters are short and concise which makes for easy reading, as does the language, I think the book is aimed at youngsters from about 10. That said the story is a fun and an enjoyable one which is light hearted and a quick read for adults too.
After finding “Skellig” as he is later found to be know Michael the little boy cant quite figure out if he is a figment of his imagination to begin with. Michael has had a lot to cope with for a young lad in the space of a short time. The move of house away from his friends, a longer journey alone to school, trying to help sort out the house, worrying about his parents and top of the list worrying about his baby sister and whether she will survive. So to have an imaginary friend would be acceptable some might say.
It soon becomes clear though that Skellig is not imaginary and is real, but what he is, is another question. Michael realises that Skellig himself is not well he wants food and painkillers for his arthritis. These are things that Michael can provide and despite Skelligs initial denial at wanting help from Michael he does accept the offerings.
Michael at the same time discovers a new friend in Mina the girl along the road. She is an oddity to Michael. Not only because she’s a girl, but because she is home tutored by her mother and seems to know a lot about things like poetry and art, things that Michael discovers are quite interesting aside from his usual football.
As the friendship between Michael and Mina grows, he introduces her to Skellig and together they find him a safer place to gather his strength on aspirin, takeaway leftovers, beer and dead animal bits.
There becomes a strong bond between the three and Michael confides his deepest fears to them about the baby dying. Mina helps Michael express himself more though art and nature whilst Skellig has an unusual power of his wings that have started to grow stronger from his back. Is Skellig an angel? Michael prays for the baby and wants her to grow strong. Skellig has an immense power about him, but is he able to make the baby better?
To find out you will have to read the book!
Published by Hodders Children’s Books in 1998
Available from around £2 - £8 online at places such as Amazon and good book stores in paperback, hardback and Kindle format. There is also a DVD.
Review maybe posted on other review sites under the same username Siberian-queen©
Such a wonderful read. Everyone must read this! - go on, it won't take you long...
At only 176 pages, this children's novel is a short yet completely compelling book which will captivate old and young readers. I'm 24 and, in all honesty, don't get round to reading that many books. A friend recommended this Skellig to me saying 'You'll like it, it's only short'. Convinced that this would definitely be one book I'd end up finish reading I started to read and joined Michael and Mina in their extraordinary adventure.
I won't reveal the plot (no spoilers here then!) because that's half the pleasure in reading the book. I'm sure a lot of people will have seen the TV adaptation, which I have yet to see, but I don't know if I will see it because the book was so perfect and I don't want anything to spoil the Skellig experience for me. Don't miss out on the book though if you've already seen it on screen.
Almond writes beautifully and simply, allowing children to understand and enjoy the story while still engaging older readers (though I consider myself a child at heart!). I was gripped throughout and lost a considerable chunk of a Saturday when I just could not put it down and had to finish it right there and then. In fact this book inspired me to start to read more because it was such a great feeling - the story, the characters, the ending - I cried. But I'm quite the softy at times.
The story deals with some very emotional issues but in a way which may offer comfort and education to young readers going through similar situations. I wouldn't say that the book was scary at all but for more sensitive readers maybe a parent should check out the story first.
Buy it cheap from amazon or pick it up from a highstreet book shop but you might find difficulty in getting Skellig from a library because I hear this is quite a popular book and is a studied text in schools too.
When i read skellig it has been my favourite book ever since. it is so interesting. its a really moving story, you just want to know whats happening because intresting things are happening all of the time. Skellig is written by a very talented authour. I am a big fan of his amazing books. skellig is about Michael discovering a mysterious creature in the garage of his new house. he spends a lot of his time looking after and caring for this timid creature. Really fab book! reccomend to anybody because i really loved it.
Skellig is a remarkable story, unlike anything I have ever read before. It's told from the point of view of Michael, a boy of about eleven, who is struggling with many difficult issues. His family have just moved house, to a place that needs a vast amount of work and so looks a real mess. He hates having left behind his friends, although he's still attending his old school; that in itself means a long journey each day. Worst of all, his baby sister - born prematurely - is very ill, and he is worried that she's going to die. All in all, Michael is fed up. Unexpectedly he finds something in the garage: something possibly alive, although he's not quite sure. But Michael isn't allowed into the garage. It's dangerous. His mother tells him to keep out, since she doesn't want him crushed under falling debris. But Michael's bored, and he's curious too. So despite the danger, he goes back into the garage a day later and sees - well, he's not entirely sure what it is. He thinks at first that it's a dead tramp. Then this person with a white face and a black suit speaks to him. Before we learn any more, Michael's mother calls to him, and his father warns him again about the danger of the garage. The story proceeds in this way, with gradually increased clues as to the significance of what Michael has discovered in the garage; a little suspense (it could, after all, be dangerous), and the ongoing concern about the baby. She doesn't come into the story herself in a big way, but is always at the back of Michael's mind, hurting his stomach when he thinks about her. Despite not being (nor ever having been) a boy of this age, I could identify almost immediately with Michael. It's clear that he has been, until shortly before the start of the book, a normal, cheerf
ul boy with few worries. He evidently got on all right in school most of the time, and liked kicking a football around with his friends in the evenings. Now he feels purposeless, worried, insecure. Not that his parents are in any way neglectful - indeed, his mother clearly cares for him deeply, and apologises for everything being so rotten. She is aware of his distress, and yet she's so taken up with her own worries about her daughter, and trying to deal with the mess in the house, that she has little time to spare for her son. A few chapters into the book we meet the other main character of the book, a girl about Michael's age called Mina, who lives next door. Mina is about as unlike Michael as it's possible to be. She's dreamy and imaginative, creative and confident, brilliant at drawing, and knowledgeable about many things, with a particular affinity to birds. She sits up in trees to read, and has little structure to her life. This is partly due to her personality, and partly because she's educated at home rather than going to school. Slowly the confused, anxious Michael becomes friendly with Mina. He tells her about the strange person he has discovered in the garage, and together they gradually get to know him. Nothing horrible happens - this is, after all, a children's book - although the plot becomes a little surreal as it progresses. Somehow this doesn't matter in context; the book was almost poetic in places, unlike anything I had ever read before, not really meant to be 'understood' in a common sense way. I read this book to my sons when they were about eleven and thirteen, and we all found ourselves eager to know what was going to happen, so much so that I finished it in just a few days. It was a good book to read aloud: the chapters are very short (just two or three pages each) and there's plenty of
action and conversation to move the plot forward. We also found it intriguing to try and guess what was coming; for once, none of us did. One of my favourite sections is Mina's explanation of why she is educated at home. ' "My mother educates me," she said. "We believe that schools inhibit the natural curiosity, creativity and intelligence of children. The mind needs to be opened out into the world, not shuttered down inside a gloomy classroom." ' Hardly something a typical child this age would say, and yet it's not an agenda David Almond is trying to push: when asked, it turned out that he knew very little about home education, and had not experienced it himself, either as parent or child. Nevertheless, the idea of freedom is significant in the book. At a practical plot level it's convenient to have Mina at home all day; it means that she's accessible for the daytimes when Michael is off school himself because he's too stressed, or unwell. At another level, her freedom from traditional constraints and her openness to new experiences teaches Michael (and, perhaps, anyone reading) to think beyond the bounds of previous understanding, not to be limited to what we expect, or even what we can see and feel. It's hard to say what the theme of this book is, or what genre it would be classed as. It's fantasy in a realistic sort of way; there are religious overtones, yet it's not a Christian book, nor even a New Age book, although it could possibly be categorised with either. It's about hope, and love, and healing, as well as freedom; it's about growing up for Michael, for maturing and developing and seeing the world from a new perspective. In many ways it's a stunning book - and the same time, it's - well, strange. Unusual. The storyline is involved, really quite complex
for a children's book, with the various threads weaving together in an enchanting way until the bittersweet climax, followed quickly by a hopeful and encouraging ending. Skellig is suitable for anyone who likes a good, imaginative story, although it's probably intended mainly for children of around 10-12, roughly the ages of Michael and Mina. The emotions involved, some of the complex language, and the thought-provoking ending might make it a little confusing for a child much younger than this. Having said that, it's only 170 pages and the text isn't too small, so a fluent reader as young as six or seven would probably have no difficulty with the actual reading. I wouldn't really recommend it for a practical, matter-of-fact child under the age of about eight or nine, as much as anything because as a parent I was a little worried about the idea of two children becoming friendly with a stranger in the garage, and not consulting any adults. But a child who likes fantasy of the Narnia style, and who has a clear ability to distinguish fact from fiction, might well love this book. For older children, however unimaginative they might seem, there is plenty in this book to appeal. There's some deep emotion, some thought-provoking questions about life and education, and some important observations about siblings and the frailty of life in general. This is a book to keep, to re-read at different levels by both children and adults. It makes me smile, and it also brings tears to my eyes. It leaves several questions unanswered, and yet somehow that doesn't matter. We only bought it after reading some glowing recommendations, and as I read it for the first time I couldn't really understand why it was considered so special. But it's unquestionably grown on me, and will probably be considered a children's classic for many years to come.
Published in 1998 by Signature books, the cover price is £5.99 although it's usually discounted by 20% at Amazon.co.uk. It's also available in Hodder paperbacks at £8.
No. Sorry. I can’t wait. I’m going to write this review anyway. I wasn’t going to you know, I was going to wait. I was going to wait until it wasn’t only Jill from the Murphy family who’d read Skellig. I was going to let you know what Conor and Kieran thought about it too – the problem is that we’re halfway through something else and by the time we’d finished that AND read all of Skellig together we’d be weeks on down the line. And I just can’t wait. So sorry, it’s only my opinion on THIS children’s book you’re going to get and sadly not the opinion of the people who really matter, the children themselves. I’m simply too excited. Michael’s life is turning upside down. His mother has just had a baby – a new sister for him. But she was an early baby, far too early, and she’s very, very ill. She’s is in and out of hospital and there is a great fear she might die. His mother and father are distraught and they’re living in a tense atmosphere of fear and worry. They’re a close family but it’s hard to keep it all together under such circumstances and sometimes Michael feels lonely and left out. Then he feels guilty for being so heartless. Making matters worse is that they’ve just moved house, right across town. Michael elected to stay at the same school but he needs to take a long bus ride to get there and he can’t just walk out of his house to join a football game with his friends any more. The house is in need of complete renovation too and it seems to Michael as though all his familiar comforts have deserted him. And then, one day, Michael goes into the derelict garage at the bottom of the garden. It’s an adventure – he’s not allowed down there at all for the structure is dangerously unstable and could collapse at any time. While he’s exploring Michael discovers another derelic
t – it’s a man living in the garage, feeding himself on the flies and spiders he finds within. It’s Skellig. Skellig begs him to tell no one that he’s there and instinctively Michael senses that there’s something strange, something special about this scruffy, ragged man and he keeps the secret from his parents. He tries to help Skellig, although he’s half afraid and half excited, bringing him medicine and food and drink. One evening whilst sneaking food down to the garage he tries to help Skellig to a more comfortable position and discovers that he has wings on his back. What is Skellig? Is he a man? Or an owl? Or an angel? Michael doesn’t know but he knows he can no longer help Skellig alone. He can trust only Mina with his secret. Mina is the child of their eccentric new neighbours. She and her mother are rather ‘New Age’ if you like. Mina doesn’t go to school, she’s educated by her mother under the guidance of the writings of William Blake. It’s interesting to see that a strictly formal education is questioned in Skellig and rather than found wanting is found incomplete. Older children and adults will see that I think. Mina is fascinated by birds and she’s fascinated by the surreal and she’s happy to try to help Michael help Skellig. Together they move him to a safer place and continue to take care of him. While all this is going on Michael’s having trouble at school. He’s falling out with his friends who laugh at him because of his new relationship with Mina – A GIRL. His work is suffering, even his football is suffering. His sister’s illness is getting worse. He’s starting to argue with his parents. He’s starting to worry them so much that they call in the doctor. And all the time he must keep the secret that is Skellig. He can’t tell anyone about the nights he’s spent with him and Mina in a ma
gical world where they can fly. I’m starting to go on but I know you’ll forgive me – I get excited. I shan’t tell you what happens to Michael, or whether his baby sister gets better. I shan’t tell you what happens to Skellig and who or what he is, or whether he has a part to play in the real world as well as the dreamlike one. But I will quote you one tiny little part just to show you how good it all is. Michael and Mina are waiting for his father to return from the hospital where his baby sister is undergoing an operation on her heart: “I closed my eyes and tried to discover where the happy half of me was hiding. I felt the tears trickling through my tightly closed eyelids. I felt Whisper’s claws tugging at my jeans. I wanted to be all alone in an attic like Skellig with just the owls and the moonlight and an oblivious heart. And then Dad’s car came, with its blaring engine and its glaring lights, and the fear just increased and increased and increased.” I think that’s perfect writing for children. See the short sentences? Now you have to read it aloud – can you feel the rhythm of the words? THAT’S how you write for children. But also – there is an emotional impact there that will strike children and adults alike. The funny parts are just like that too, just as good. In his author’s note David Almond says: “Writing can be difficult, but sometimes it really does feel like a kind of magic. I think that stories are living things – among the most important things in the world.” Well, I think he’s right but I also think that gives you a better clue to his writing than I ever could. It’s modern and his children certainly live in today’s world but it’s also magic. Skellig feels like an old story, one that’s been told for countless generations, one that’s a part of an oral tradition, pa
rt of folklore, part of all those stories that are older than any of us, it feels like it’s one that’s been finally written down for the generation of listeners who want to read too. The scenes of Michael and his friends playing football will strike an immediate chord for anyone with sons yet those where Michael and Mina dance in the air with Skellig are mystical, poetic, dreamlike and the magic is made stronger because the story is anchored so firmly in the real world. Ohhh. I cried at Skellig, I laughed at Skellig, I started reading it and I didn’t put it down until every page was turned and read. When I finished it I did a great big sigh. Ohhhh. Like that. I felt like the cat with the cream. I’d found a classic. This one may not have launched with the big bang of Harry Potter (although I like Harry Potter, anything that gets children reading, or anyone else reading, is great in my opinion), it may not create the crazes, the spin-offs, and the Hollywood film, but it’s going to grow and grow I just know it. This one, like Narnia, Alice and all the other children’s classics is still going to be read by my grandchildren and their children too. I just know it. Like Narnia, like Alice, it’s magic. It’s contemporary now in comparison to those greats, but like those greats it’s MAGIC. Do you see? It’s not going to date, I just know it. And you know what? While I’ve been typing I’ve decided NOT to read Skellig aloud to Conor and Kieran. I’ve decided there should be some magic left for them to discover by themselves, not with Mummy’s take added, and so I’ve put it back on the bookshelf, it’s waiting for them. It’ll take a few years I suppose – Skellig is billed as teenage fiction although I’d say keen readers would get to it at eight or nine – but I’m sure it won’t just gather dust in that time. I’m bound
to read it again before they do and more than once I imagine. And you know what else? You should go and get it and read it yourself. It’s magic. Oh yes, one last thing - 27 and 53? It’s in the book. You’ll have to get it to get it!
Winner of the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award 1998