Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fumbling Through Fantasy: Skellig by David Almond (1999)

Michael is worried about his newborn baby sister, who has some health problems. Then he discovers Skellig - a man? a bird? - living in the old shed behind his house. He confides in Mina, a neighbor girl who is homeschooled, and together they work to uncover the mystery of who or what Skellig may be. 

Skellig made my reading list for this project because I have read some David Almond, and wanted to make sure I read his most famous work. Like his other books, this one is infused with a creepy sense of foreboding, which no one can create quite like Almond. I always find it necessary to read his books quickly and reach the resolution within a couple of hours because I can't stand that unnerving feeling that something terrible is about to happen. In this book, especially, I spent a lot of time worrying about the baby - probably because I have a baby myself - and there was no way I could have gone to bed without finishing the book and knowing the outcome.

As I read this book, I also kept thinking to myself that Almond essentially writes the same story over and over again. Themes of life and death, ill and endangered babies, birds, and children meddling in supernatural situations that are bigger than they realize all occur in Raven Summer and Clay, which are the other two I have read. I think Skellig handles these themes best of the three books, but it makes me wonder what has happened in Almond's personal life to cause his preoccupation with these elements, and why he felt it was necessary to write the same type of story more than once. 

That said, I recognize why this book is a Carnegie Medal winner and a Printz honor book. The writing is impeccable, if unsettling, and the story is unique among fantasy novels because it so thoroughly blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. The religious elements are also a plus for me, and I like that these are presented organically, as the story reveals the truth about Skellig, and not as a didactic statement from the author. 

All in all, this is a worthwhile read. We already owned a copy before this reading, based on my husband's enjoyment of it, and I will happily share it with my children when they are of middle school age.

1 comment:

  1. Skellig is the only David Almond book I've ever read. And I loved it! So fascinating and yes, there was that sense of impending doom. How interesting that you feel he's written the same story over and over again in his other books.