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Skellig (Printz Honor) Hardcover – April 28, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 241 customer reviews

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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.
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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: 6.1 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #683,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
A beautifully executed book. The characters are not only believable, but easy to empathize with. This book is filled with short chapters that some intermediate readers will appreciate. In this book, much of the plot hinges on the existence of Skellig (a bird man dying in a dusty garage) as well as the protagonist's dying baby sister. Interestingly, the author is in no hurry to return to the Skellig's plot only. A lot of time is spent by the narrator with his parents, at school, or in the hospital.
Introducing the character of Mina, a homeschooled little girl, the author's consistent use of the poems of William Blake works well and is never overdone. I have known a lot of little girls just like Mina herself. Precocious but not precious and full of interesting ideas. Even the character of Skellig himself is beautifully rendered here. There are plenty of children's books in which the narrator finds a pet or a person and nurtures them to health, but this one is especially interesting. Special points to the author for never saying exactly what Skellig is. A strong book all around.
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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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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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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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