- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 and up
- Lexile Measure: 490L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Printing edition (July 25, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 038573171X
- ISBN-13: 978-0385731713
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,461,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Clay Hardcover – July 25, 2006
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up–As in Kit's Wilderness (2000) and The Fire-Eaters (2004, both Delacorte), Almond revisits the English north country of his youth to spin this metaphysical tale of boys in conflict. Davie and his friend Geordie are altar boys, but are beginning to doubt the value of their long-held religious beliefs. They live in fear of the bullying Mouldy, a hulking, drunken lout from a neighboring village whom they're sure is out to kill them. Enter Stephen, a slightly older boy whose father is dead, whose mother is mad, and who was reputedly kicked out of priestly training for some kind of trouble related to devil worship and performing a Black Mass. A talented sculptor, he proceeds to scare Davie silly with his talk of creating life, of creating, in fact, a monster that will wreak revenge on Mouldy. Davie sees Stephen's clay figures move. Is it hypnotism, faith, or madness? Whatever, their monster is eventually made real. Mouldy may have been killed by it in a fall from a cliff, and Davie wrestles with his guilt until he ultimately destroys it. This is a Catholic ghost story, a sort of Secret Life of Boys with which many readers, should they persevere through the heavily nuanced language, will identify. While the look of the book is deceptively simple, the weighty content of the plot and its accompanying themes are chilling, indeed.–Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Gr. 6-9. In Almond's beautiful novel Skellig (1999), a boy finds a fragile angel-like creature in his garden shed, but in this book the magical realism goes much further. The author sets a Frankenstein monster story in a small, contemporary English town. Mischievous altar boy Davie explains how a strange new kid, Stephen, convinces him to steal the body and blood of Christ from church, which the boys use to create a huge clay monster that obeys their wishes. Should the boys send Clay to kill Mouldy, the vicious local bully? When Mouldy falls to his death in the local quarry, Davie wonders if Clay is responsible. Is the monster reading his thoughts? How much of Davie is in the monster? The scary monster-come-to-town story raises big issues about God, creativity, and evil, but Davie's first-person narrative is never preachy. Discussions about art ("our passion to create goes with our passion to destroy") and religion (Has God abandoned us because we created nuclear bombs and gas chambers?) are beautifully handled, as is the portrait of Davie's happy family. Rooted in the ordinariness of a community and in one boy's chance to play God, this story will grab readers with its gripping action and its important ideas. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
One creepy read, CLAY follows the rough-and-tumble adventures of protagonist Davie (13) and his best pal Geordie, two altar boys in it for the tips who scrap with Protestant boys now and again, avoiding all the while the hulking and dangerous Protestant presence of one Martin Mouldy.
Enter the dragon in the form of Stephen Rose (from who knows where). Stephen's father is dead (by accident?), his mother mad (by design?), and he's sent to be brought up by the village madwomen herself, Crazy Mary. Stephen Rose has a talent for sculpting "men" out of clay, and he's about to breath one to life, but needs Davie to help pull it off. Davie (the good angel) and Stephen (the bad) become the "Masters" of Clay, a creature that echoes both his creators specifically and mankind in general, being a creature of both great promise and greater disappointment. When a murder occurs after the monster's afoot, the novel takes on a life of its own. Hypnotism? Dreams? Madness? Reality? The lines are deliberately blurred as Clay repeatedly wanders the landsccape and asks commands of its terrified master, Davie.
As an adult reader, I was intrigued by this book. I wouldn't buy it for my 8th-grade classroom library, though, because I don't believe it would fly. I pull a star for two reasons -- Almond gets over-the-top melodramatic with Stephen's character at the climax, and some characters (especially Davie's romantic interest, Maria) seem "thrown in" and go nowhere after the promise of going somewhere (always an annoyance to readers). If you're a fan of dead men walking, however, I suggest giving it a try.
At the beginning of the story, Davie is just your typical mischievous altar boy who along with his friend Geordie enjoys stealing the sacramental wine and smoking stolen cigarettes. They do go to confession each week though to make up for it. Along with their altar boy antics, Davie and Geordie are enemies with the town bully, a typically drunken and belligerent Protestant named Martin Mould, aka Mouldy. They're convinced that Mouldy is out to get them, and against Mouldy's entourage Davie and Geordie know they don't stand a chance.
When a mysterious and creepy new kid named Stephen Rose shows up in town, and Father O'Mahoney encourages them to befriend the troubled young man, Davie and Geordie think that maybe Stephen is exactly what they need to win the Mouldy war. But Stephen seems nearly as crazy as the aunt he lives with, who is known as Crazy Mary from town. Plus, Stephen has a mysterious past that includes a dead father, a mother in a mental hospital and an expelling from his last school.
When Stephen stabs one of Mouldy's chums, Geordie freaks out, but Davie remains oddly enthralled with the creepy kid and finds himself spending more and more time alone with him. Then, Stephen shows Davie what he can do with clay and how he can make it move and turn to life. When Stephen comes up with a plan to make a monster out of clay, Davie is caught in the middle. A monster would help protect him against Martin Mould. But still, does that justify Davie stealing the body and blood of Christ from the church in order to give the clay creature a soul?
Things get out of control when the clay creature comes to life and taunts Davie's thoughts and dreams saying over and over, "I am here, master. Command me." It's up to Davie to figure out his feelings about both God and playing God. How will he deal with this monster named Clay?
David Almond's writing is concise yet hauntingly resonates after the last page. CLAY is like a reinvented FRANKENSTEIN roaming the hills of the English countryside. Warning: You might have nightmares after reading this one.
--- Reviewed by Kristi Olson
Most recent customer reviews
The dialogue is quick, funny, and rich with life and character.Read more
Thirteen-year-old Davie and his best friend, Geordie, have a wild time when Stephen Rose moves into Crazy Mary's house; she's the...Read more