In the elegant, hypnotic, thoroughly engaging Counting Stars
, British author David Almond, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Kit's Wilderness
and a Printz honor for Skellig
, shares a collection of stories about his childhood "in a small steep town overlooking the River Tyne." Echoing the bright, witty banter of his large family in pages of fascinating dialogue, Almond recounts tales of his Catholic upbringing (where counting stars in the sky past 100 is a blasphemous attempt to know the unknown), the deaths of his father and sister, poignant stories of local boys and girls with bitter plights, a lonely old woman who keeps her lost baby in a jar, stolen kisses, whispered rumors, dreams of angels, sensual memories of warm grass and sunshine, lemon curd and marmalade. The stories are not chronological, but thematic, and they are simply beautiful. No one captures the mysticism of childhood like Almond, and his readers will be overjoyed to see the ways in which his own history is mirrored in the odd, magical worlds created in his novels. In the author's words, the stories "merge memory and dream, the real and the imagined, truth and lies. And, perhaps, like all stories, they are an attempt to reassemble what is fragmented, to rediscover what has been lost." Almond paints a landscape of the soul and shows his readers the magic of humanity. It seems he can do no less! (Ages 13 and older) --Karin Snelson
From Publishers Weekly
In this evocative collection of autobiographical vignettes, Almond's writing exudes the same haunting mood that characterizes his novels (Skellig; Kit's Wilderness; Heaven Eyes). Here, readers can trace connecting threads between his published works and his childhood experiences as a sensitive, pensive English child preoccupied by the mysteries of religion, death and immortality. Rather than moving linearly, stories, set in the author's predominantly Catholic neighborhood, provide a spinning carousel of surreal images connecting different eras and piecing together fragments of memories. Town outcasts seem to change form as Almond reveals their poignant histories. Family members who die untimely deaths make surprising reappearances ("The week after our sister Barbara died she was seen walking hand in hand with Mam on this road toward the field... [They] walked with a fluency which neither had in their lives, for Barbara had been an invalid child and Mam was already badly damaged by arthritis"). Mam re-emerges in one tale as a vibrant young dancer when her son gazes at an old photograph taken during her girlhood. In another, three deceased family members each define the word "death." At the heart of every selection, readers will feel the presence of the budding young writer gracefully, yet often sadly, riding waves of change while trying to make sense out of the world around him. The montage of scenes "merge[s] memory and dream, the real and the imagined, truth and lies," and expresses pearls of wisdom that will remain fixed in readers' imaginations. Ages 10-up.
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