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Kit's Wilderness Hardcover – November 10, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Like David Almond's 1998 Whitbread-winning Skellig, this powerful, eerie, elegantly written novel celebrates the magic that is part of our existence--the magic that occurs when we dream at night, the magic that connects us to family long gone, the magic that connects humans to the land, and us all to each other. As Kit's grandfather puts it, "the tales and memories and dreams that keep the world alive."

It seems fated that 13-year-old Christopher Watson, nicknamed Kit, would move to Stoneygate, an old English coal-mining village where his ancestors lived, worked, and died. Evidence of the ancient coal pit is everywhere--depressions in the gardens, jagged cracks in the roadways, in his grandfather's old mining songs. A monument in the St. Thomas graveyard bears the name of child workers killed in the Stoneygate pit disaster of 1821, including Kit's own name--Christopher Watson, aged 13--the name of a distant uncle. At the top of this high, narrow pyramid-shaped monument is the name John Askew, the same name of Kit's classmate who takes the connection between this monument and life--and death--very seriously.

The drama unfolds as the haunted, hulking, dark-eyed John Askew draws Kit and other classmates into the game of Death, a spin-the-knife, pretend-to-die game that he hosts in a deep hole dug in the earth, with candles, bones, and carved pictures of the children of the old families of Stoneygate. Kit the writer and Askew the artist belong together, Askew keeps telling him. "Your stories is like my drawings, Kit. They take you back deep into the dark and show it lives within us still.... You see it, don't you? You're starting to see that you and me is just the same." Are they, though?

Kit's Wilderness conjures a world where the past is alive in the present and creeps into the future--a world where ancestral ghosts and even the slow-changing geology of the landscape are as tangible as lunch. Powerful images of darkness exploding into "lovely lovely light" filter throughout the story, as Almond boldly explores the dark side and unearths a joyful message of redemption. (Ages 11 and much, much older) --Karin Snelson

From Publishers Weekly

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 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 470L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (November 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385326653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385326650
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,782,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

author spotlight
"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."--David Almond

David Almond is the winner of the 2001 Michael L. Printz Award for Kit's Wilderness, which has also been named best book of the year by School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. His first book for young readers, Skellig, is a Printz Honor winner.


Miraculous beings living in a miraculous world . . .
Maybe it comes from my religious upbringing (I grew up in a big Catholic family): I do feel that we are miraculous beings living in a miraculous world. Sometimes the explanations we're given--and the possibilities we're offered--are just too restricted and mechanistic. Stories offer us a place to explore (as writers and readers) what it is to be fully human. I do think that young people are interested in the major questions--Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Is there a God?--and they're willing to contemplate all kinds of possibilities. They haven't yet become tired by such questions.

Brutality has to be allowed its place . . .
Ten minutes of TV news is enough to convince anybody that the world is a pretty brutal place. We aren't yet perfect people living in a perfect world--and we never will be--so brutality has to be allowed its place. But the world also contains great tenderness, joy, hope, etc. I suppose that in my books I explore a world and people that are made up of opposites: good and evil, light and darkness, the beautiful and the ugly. And I hope that in the end, goodness, light, and beauty will have some kind of upper hand.

Stories as a whole form a kind of community . . .
The stories in Counting Stars don't have a straightforward chronological progression, but there are many links between the different stories. They form a kind of mosaic. Themes hinted at in one story are developed in another. Characters are seen in different situations/settings. I like to think that the stories as a whole form a kind of community or family. It's often said that there's a big difference between writing short stories and novels, but I'm not so sure. I think of my novels as a series of scenes/chapters, each of which I write with the same kind of attention I'd give to a short story.

A readership of four . . .
When I began to write Counting Stars, I wanted to write about my sisters and brother, and to use their real names, so I needed their permission. I worried that they wouldn't be happy about the book. So I invited them all to my house for dinner, and afterwards I told them my plans, and I nervously read one of the first stories, "The Fusilier." If they had said no to using their real names, Counting Stars would have been a very different book--and maybe wouldn't have been written at all. But they said yes! Over the next couple of years, after I'd written each story, I sent copies to my brother and three sisters, so that they could see how things were developing. So, in a sense, the book was written for a readership of four people.

Staring out of the window . . .
I write at home, in a little office overlooking the back garden. I scribble in an artist's sketchbook and type onto an AppleMac computer. I work all day--though some of that time will involve staring out of the window and eating apples. But I also travel quite a lot, so I'm used to writing on trains, in hotels, etc.

I used to wonder if I'd ever be able to write a novel properly . . .
For many years, I wrote nothing but short stories, and I used to wonder if I'd ever be able to write a novel properly. I wrote the stories in Counting Stars before I wrote Skellig, my first children's novel. I wrote them over a two-year period. As I wrote them, I found myself exploring childhood experience from a child's point of view. I rediscovered the powerful imaginative and emotional nature of childhood. Really, writing these stories changed me into a writer for children/young adults.

Messing about with paper clips . . .
I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote little books and stories as a boy, and wanted to see my books on the shelves of our little local library right next to my favorite books: King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, The Day of the Triffids, and The Adventures of Turkey. But as for writing, I simply like it all--right from creating new stories to messing about with paper clips. The best piece of writing advice I've ever received: Don't give up.

It's often children who read the books with the most insight . . .
I think that children can be much more perceptive, creative, and intelligent than we give them credit for. I see this in the many letters I get from my readers and in the things that they say when I meet them. Some adults assume that children will never "get" the more complex aspects of my books, but in fact it's often children who read the books with the most insight.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like Richard Cormier's books, this "Young Adult" novel is not just for those under 20.
Nothing is black and white, everything is poetic, mysterious and slightly cloudy in this original, enticing novel by David Almond.
The opening chapters look morbid - Kit is new to the community where his ailing granddad grew up, a mining town in England. He's reluctantly drawn into a group led by the dark and sinister John Askew, the son of the town alcoholic. These kids play a game called "Death" - Askew holds a knife to the one chosen in a spin-the-bottle selection, and takes them into the deep dark mine and leaves them there. The Dead One emerges moments or hours later, claiming to have been truly dead.
I got that far and thought this book wasn't for me - surely something evil was going to happen to Kit who was drawn both to Askew and the game.
I pushed on, and was greatly rewarded. Kit struggles with his wish to believe that no matter what others may say about someone, there is a goodness within all, waiting to be recognized and invited out. He expresses this through a story within-the-story, that ties in with Askew's disappearance, his own grandfather's preparation for dying (wonderfully handled) and his shadowy visions of many children - one special one named Silky - who died years ago in the mines.
Although I saw this somewhere referred to as like Harry Potter, I'd have to say it's not - the audience for this book is looking for more substance than entertainment (and I LOVE Harry Potter books).
An excellent read!
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A Kid's Review on September 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Kit's Wilderness is my favorite book. Better than harry potter. The description is amazing. At parts, I actually thought that I was Kit. But I always felt that I was in the book. David Almond provides the most wonderful story and description a book could have!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading Skellig to my son, we couldn't wait for Kit's Wilderness. But it was worth the wait. Like Skellig, Kit's Wilderness is dark and mysterious, with the reader left to answer many questions on his own. Almond's books are a great transition from typical kid's literature (e.g. Harry Potter) to a more adult reading experience, in which the reader has to draw his own conclusions about the characters and their actions. But this is also a terrific read for adults. I am anxiously waiting for more from David Almond.
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A Kid's Review on September 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
One of the best books I ever read was "Kit's Wilderness". Nothing anyone could have told me about this book would have prepared me for the drama within its pages. From the beginning, I was amazed by the characters and the way they introduce themselves. Kit just moved in and this is a story within itself. John Askew's personality is different inside and out. Allie has a background in Kit's family which adds an element of surprise to the book, and connects many loose ends together. This book takes place in an old mining town and it is a collection of tales from the mining times woven together into one plot line. Most of the families living in Stoneygate have ancestors that died in the terrible mine disaster years earlier. The tragedy and horror was passed down from generation to generation. Kit's grandpa had worked in the mine when he was younger. He told Kit, "It was very deep, Kit. Very dark. And every one of us was scared of it. As a lad I'd wake up trembling, knowing that as a Watson born in Stoneygate I'd soon be following my ancestors into the pit." All of the old mining families' children participate in a game. A game with death as its initiation process. Before Kit's death Askew whispers to him ever so softly, "This is not a game. You will truly die. All you see and all you know will disappear. It is the end. You will be no more." This plot really grips your soul. It gives the book life, and makes the reader become part of this possibly deadly game.
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By A Customer on April 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When I first picked up "Kit's Wilderness", I didn't really think that I would love it the way I did. I opened it up and within the 1st of the it's short chapters, I knew that I wouldn't be able to put it down! It is writted in such a way. I would describe this style as very... "prosey". It really kept me hooked. Kit is a newcomer to the town that his ancestors have lived in forever. He plays a game called "Death" and it changes his life. He must face his past with another boy and together, they will discover the secrets of the town's distant past... And well beyond that. This story is truly wonderful! You have to add it to your collections!
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By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
David Almond delivers a sophisticated and eerie ghost story that mixes myth and urban legends into a creepy and utterly engaging novel. What an interesting follow up to his gentle first book, Skellig. Kit's Wilderness shows the development of this great talent and a deep respect for readers of all ages. Kit's intuition and insight into the relationships around him are true and sensory. Can't wait to see what he does next!
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Format: Hardcover
This book is so compelling. The dark is so dark. John Askew and his deathgame, his scary family life, and the history of death in the mines will attract many young readers and adult readers alike. The light is so warm. Kit's relationship with his grandfather, his friendship with Allie, the joy Kit finds in his writing, and his compassion and need to help John leave one with such a good feeling. David Almond is a very gifted writer! Read this book! I say Newbery!
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