by David Almond

Age: 9+

Interests: birds, poetry, mystery, magic, illness, death, dreams

Random House: 1998

182 pp., 46 chapters

Also by this author: Kit’s Wilderness, Heaven Eyes, Secret Heart, The Fire Eaters, Clay, Jackdaw Summer, My Name is Mina (a prequel to Skellig)

Movie Version: British TV movie Skellig (aka Skellig: The Owl Man), 2009, starring Tim Roth.

10-year-old Michael has a new baby sister who was born prematurely and may not live. Between hospital visits, the family has just moved into a new house, and while exploring, Michael discovers a strange man in their dilapidated garage. His name is Skellig. Ill and weak, he’s been in the garage a very long time, and does not seem quite human. For one thing, he has wings folded up under his jacket. Michael and Mina, the girl next door, slowly gain Skellig’s trust and help him regain his strength. Michael comes to believe that Skellig has the power to save his baby sister’s life, which turns out to be the case.

A beautifully written fable about death, evolution and flight, that nevertheless remains grounded in the everyday events of Michael’s life – his problems with his old friends, his parents’ distraction, his own anxiety about his sister. The first scenes with Skellig are weird but not scary, as Michael doesn’t fear him at all, but is immediately drawn to help him. Mina is the ultimate outsider, a home-schooled girl obsessed with birdwatching and poetry, and she proves to be the perfect friend in Michael’s time of need.

The magical realism in this story will be very appealing to preteens, and the super-short chapters make it unintimidating for early readers. Michael feels helpless in the big events of his life, which young readers should identify with readily. The relationship between Michael and Mina is strong, but in a best friend way, not a girlfriend-boyfriend way. The author’s inclusion of the poems and angels of William Blake, and the science and skeletons of Darwin is intriguing and gives the story unexpected depth.

Even with the winged Skellig in the plot, the focus remains firmly on Michael and Mina, and their reactions to the mystery man. (It’s never exactly explained who or what Skellig is, leaving the whole question up in the air… so to speak.) Michael and Mina are especially admirable in their tendency to follow their own interests and not worry too much about what other people think of them.

(p.s. I don’t like to hand out spoilers, but it may be helpful to know that the story has a happy ending.)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bundleofbooks
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 15:27:11

    I recently bought this for my younger brother’s birthday. I read Skellig when I was younger but remember preferring Kit’s Wilderness. Skellig definitely seems to be everyone else’s favourite though!

    I’m actually a bit worried now though because my younger brother has just turned 13 – I hope he’s not too old for the book already! He’s always loved reading, but I’ve always thought that he’s gone for books aimed at a slightly younger audience than I would have been reading at his age! I found it in the ‘Teen Reads’ section though, so fingers crossed he’ll enjoy it.


    • Kim
      Apr 01, 2014 @ 11:04:15

      Hi bundleofbooks! I wouldn’t worry too much about it being too young for him – the book has enough depth for all ages, really. Evocative and moody, and doesn’t condescend.


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