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Skellig (Printz Honor) Hardcover – April 28, 2009


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Skellig (Printz Honor) + My Name Is Mina
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 490L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038532653X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385326537
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (209 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"I thought he was dead. He was sitting with his legs stretched out and his head tipped back against the wall. He was covered with dust and webs like everything else and his face was thin and pale. Dead bluebottles were scattered on his hair and shoulders. I shined the flashlight on his white face and his black suit."

This is Michael's introduction to Skellig, the man-owl-angel who lies motionless behind the tea chests in the abandoned garage in back of the boy's dilapidated new house. As disturbing as this discovery is, it is the least of Michael's worries. The new house is a mess, his parents are distracted, and his brand-new baby sister is seriously ill. Still, he can't get this mysterious creature out of his mind--even as he wonders if he has really seen him at all. What unfolds is a powerful, cosmic, dreamlike tale reminiscent of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. British novelist David Almond works magic as he examines the large issues of death, life, friendship, love, and the breathtaking connections between all things.

Amidst the intensity and anxiety of his world, Michael is a normal kid. He goes to school, plays soccer, and has friends with nicknames like Leakey and Coot. It's at home where his life becomes extraordinary, with the help of Skellig and Mina, the quirky, strong-willed girl next door with "the kind of eyes you think can see right through you." Mina and her mother's motto is William Blake's "How can a bird that is born for joy / Sit in a cage and sing?" This question carries us through the book, as we see Michael's baby sister trapped in a hospital incubator; as we see the exquisite, winged Skellig crumpled in the garage; as we meet Mina's precious blackbird chicks and the tawny owls in her secret attic; and as we finally see a braver, bolder Michael spread his wings and fly. Skellig was the Whitbread Award's 1998 Children's Book of the Year, and this haunting novel is sure to resonate with readers young and old. (Ages 10 and older) --Karin Snelson

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

I liked the book Skellig written by David Almond,it is a wonderful book.
Jay
I would recommend this book for adults who enjoy writing and/or reading quality children's lit as well as for mature young readers.
Andrea Pippins
The characters were interesting and had unique personalities of their own, like Mina.
Kelly Nam

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 70 people found the following review helpful By will j on March 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm 10 years old and I have read the book Skellig.I think that the people that rate these books should look at them differently.they might have think that Skellig should rank 4 1/2...but I don't.I think Skellig is a good book because it tells how us kids feel towards other people that have only some or no friends at all.It also shows that you should stand up for your friends and you should never give up on your hopes or your dreams to help other people and to take care of others other then your youself.So I hope that you listen to me because I think Skellig is great.
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58 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
As a reading specialist,I enjoy taking the time to read children's books as they are sometimes better than adult novels! Skellig was a remarkable,enchanting,spiritual journey with a young boy,Michael,going through a family trauma as well as trying to adjust to a new home. When he and his new neighbor,Mina,discover Skellig, the real page-turning begins. The mystery of Skellig's identity plays along with the increasing severity of Michael's baby sister's illness. It was difficult for me to put the book down because the author keeps you guessing what will happen next. Readers will become deeply involved with all the "happenings" towards the end.This is a novel I would recommend to kids in grades 6 and up.It would also be a great read- aloud for families as well. I hope David Almond writes another novel soon!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book for how it expanded my imagination, back to a dimension it had when I was a child. I shared it with two of my 10 year old students, and they were awed by it, asked for more like it. Loved it. It gives richness and helps define an interior world. If your child is a dreamer, introspective or has big questions about life, they are very likely to be moved by this book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
We bought this book after reading a favorable review of it inthe New York Times Book Review. I was skeptical: for the most part,book reviews seem to get it wrong with respect to children's literature, believing that children most want gently-wrought, monosyllabic, dumbed-down stories. I read Skellig to my six-year-old daughter. We could not put it down. The man/angel, Skellig, is a character not often found in children's literature: he is gentle, plaintive, weird, human, ethereal and a little spooky all at once. Needless to say, we were both boo-hooing by the end. One word about the beginning: don't be put off by its rather formulaic start, i.e., new house, unfamiliar school, sick baby, dark garage. The amalgam of events, and especially the way David Almond presents them, makes Skellig one that should or should have received the Newberry.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Skellig was a wonderful "read", it drew my 8 year old in (as well as his babysitter and myself) and we couldn't put it down. I was looking for a book to stretch the imagination again of an 8 year old whose brain had seized up on a diet of Pokemon and Goosebumps books and Skellig worked, thank you David Almond. A young boy, discovers a strange creature, Skellig, in an old garage when he moves house. The boys's baby sister is very ill and some how he feels the failing health of Skellig is tied up with that of his sister. He meets Min a home-schooled "free thinker" who helps him to rescue Skellig and to stretch his conventional way of thinking. Lots to think about in this book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Noyes on October 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
While looking for a new novel to read aloud to a group of fifth grade students, I stumbled onto Skellig by David Almond. I expected a somewhat mysterious tale, and I wasn't disappointed. What I was totally unprepared for was the beauty and strange sweetness, the well-developed relationships between the characters, and the touching ending. I literally cried for two hours...ok, I cry easily, but I believe this to be one of the best novels I've read in a long time. As a read aloud, I'm not sure if my students are quite ready for Skellig. I'm going to pilot it this week and will report back when I've finished.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kim Hoag on May 25, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read this book to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. As the reviews from children indicate, this book might be best as a read-to for they miss the subtlety in language and image: exactly where the book shines.

Almond is a master at exploring teen angst, perhaps his background as a Special Needs teacher helped here. The protagonist is a bundle of angst and he has no clue of how to deal with it. Almond puts his characters into a twilight realm, a world of half-closed eyes. Is it fantasy or imagination? Real or not? It is there the characters wind their way to a resolution.

The language is beautiful. The prose reminds me of Ray Bradbury's but on a more visceral level--an emotionality that speaks of the rawness and magic of youth.

The story abounds with wonderful symbolism (chicks, birds, flying, grounded, etc.) and sharp characterizations (Doctor Death, Skellig himself--a discarded, disused, dusty person(?)who, when in the sunlight, is beautiful) that make this book a supreme read-to for a class or parent. It is a treasure chest layered with mystery, the pain of longing, and the beauty of hoping. Of course children would miss it all on their own. This is a book through which a child needs to be led, like Alice through Wonderland, and it's a great joy to do so.
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