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The Savage Hardcover – October 14, 2008

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 79 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; First Edition edition (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076363932X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763639327
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–9—Blue is scrawny and nice. He is harassed by a big, dumb, smoking boy named Hopper. Blue's father died suddenly when he was younger. To cope, he wrote a comic book about a feral boy who gets to express his anger and loneliness through violent revenge, something Blue can't or won't do. Then parts of the story merge with real life. The characters' conversations and relationships are believable. The story is so thin, though, that there's little chance to care about the players. McKean's tonal watercolor panels, which illustrate roughly half of the pages, are full of palpable rage—gorgeous, frightening, and highly effective images. They set an ornery, mysterious mood that Almond's lackluster story never quite matches. Though the prose is clear and simple, the pace, in an attempt to build mystery, is too methodical for so obvious an allegory. The phonetic spelling in Blue's comic indicates a child much younger than the novel's somewhat confusing chronology indicates.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A story-within-the-story that explores the means of handling grief forms the thrust of this compact book. After Blue Baker’s father dies, his school counselor tries to get him to write down and explore his feelings. “I did it for a while, but it just seemed stupid.” Instead, he secretly starts writing and drawing a story about a feral boy living alone in the woods. Blue’s story—which slashes into the narrative, the moody and ragged artwork a mirror for Blue’s inner turmoil—is interspersed with his struggle to cope with the loss of his father, run-ins with a bully, and difficulty reaching out to his mother and younger sister. The savage in his story is a violent, languageless creature who chases down, kills, and eats people who get too close. The line separating Blue and his imaginary savage becomes increasingly blurred, each bleeding into the other’s world, leading to an inevitable, though earned, catharsis. Avoiding sentiment, this illuminating book captures the staggering power of raw emotions on young minds, and demonstrates the ways expression can help transform and temper them. Grades 6-9. --Ian Chipman

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
By all logic, the melding of Dave McKean to David Almond should be a bad idea. David Almond tends to write YA novels with adult sensibilities gnawing away at their cores (and I include "My Dad's A Birdman" in that gross generalization). Dave McKean for his own part is a fan of creating adult centered graphic novels ("Sandman" most notably) and picture books with mature looks and feels ("The Wolves in the Walls", "The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish", etc.). So it stands to reason that if you combined the two together you would end up with something that a child wouldn't have a chance at enjoying or understanding. It would have to be something nightmare inducing, to say the least. Yet my encounter with "The Savage" came as a bit of a surprise to me. As feared it definitely has a slightly older readership, but the darkness of the images and the text work together in ways that actually reduce the scary factor rather than increase it. I wouldn't go about handing the book to a five-year-old but for the canny child of eleven or twelve, "The Savage" is a wild untamed release of instinct and pain. The kind of thing a lot of adults wouldn't trust a child to understand. The kind of thing a kid could appreciate (and understand) for sure.

Blue's father is dead so his school counselor tells him to write down his feelings to deal with the pain.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on January 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a strange combination of picture book and novel for older readers that is unsettling at best. A young boy's fantasy, the story and the illustrations are both filled with raw emotions that border on frightening and reflects the main character's own experiences and feelings.

Blue's counselor advises him to try writing down his feelings to help deal with the pain of his father's death, but that really doesn't work very well. Then Blue starts to write a story about a wild child who lives in the woods and who, on occasion, kills and eats people.

His story tells about the savage child interacting with Blue and his sister, and how the Savage hates the boy, Hopper, that bullies Blue at school.

McKean's illustrations show a wild child who is bony and shirtless, armed with a knife. Blue begins to believe that the Savage may be real, since he is sure there is evidence that the Savage visits him while he sleeps.

The idea that what you write becomes real is not a new one, and when the bully, Hopper, receives a beating in his bedroom during the night, Blue is sure that his fantasy has become reality.

Almost a graphic novel, THE SAVAGE is filled with fast action, suspense, and characters that are realistic. It is an exciting story that should appeal to the imagination of reluctant readers, too.

Don't we all have a bit of the Savage lurking somewhere just beneath the surface?

Reviewed by: Grandma Bev
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Format: Hardcover
I have previously read "The Skellig" by David Almond and really liked it. So, I was eager to read another book by Almond. When I saw that Dave McKean (illustrator for many of Gaimen's kid's books and graphic novels) had illustrated this I had to read it. The story was interesting but not what I expected.

The story is written in two alternating parts. It starts as a normal printed book with a kid, Blue, talking about how he wrote a story as a younger kid about a Savage in a notebook. He started the story about the Savage right after his dad suddenly died from a heart attack. Then there is a section from the notebook, the story is hand-written with bad spelling (as a little kid would write it) and drawings of the Savage's adventures. These sections alternate back and forth as Blue describes his life as it was then and then shows another story about the Savage. The twist to the whole story is this, it seems that the Savage is not just a story and he may really exist.

When I started the book I wasn't sure I would like it. The Savage is pretty violent and there is some starred out swearing. I started reading it to my young son, and then opted to stop because it was a bit too violent for him. Lots of cutting things apart and thinking about cutting mean people to pieces. Okay for a young adult or pre-teen but not for a young child. Also the mis-spelling in the hand-written portions of the story bugged me...but I understand that we were supposed to be reading the writing of a young child.

As the story continued I really started to like it. Especially towards the end. By the time I finished the book I was thinking, wow, this is a really cool book. It is very creative and has a very deep story and I really liked it!
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Format: Hardcover
A boy loses his father to a heart attack and he and his mum and little sister are left to deal with the grief. He's also being bullied at school. He's told to write about it as it might ease his grief but instead writes a novel entitled "The Savage". But suddenly the things he writes about happen in real life and he's left to wonder if his character, the Savage, has come to life.

David Almond writes an interesting novella that's obviously aimed at a different audience to me (late twenties) and more at those around 10-12 years old. I was attracted because I'm a fan of Dave McKean's art and it's the best thing about this book, very dark and expressive but a lot less abstract than his Sandman covers.

I liked the ambiguity of whether the Savage was real or whether the boy had assumed the persona of his character and become a dual person, kind of like the protagonist of "Fight Club". It's an interesting quick read with some great art that any teen would enjoy reading.
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