Friday, August 1, 2008

Skellig: A Book Review

Title: Skellig
Author: David Almond
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 182 pages
Publisher: Laurel Leaf (September 11, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0440229081
ISBN-13: 978-0440229087

Skellig has a distinctive British feel to it but it is not confusing to American readers. Author, David Almond, never defines who Skellig really is other than in the context of a fantasy character. The short chapters make the story move smoothly forward and entice the reader to want more.

Michael, his baby sister and his parents move into what the real estate agent calls a fixer upper but Michael sees it for what it is. A horrible dump where the floor is full of cracks and holes. The old rickety abandoned shed out in the yard is another eyesore and Michael is warned to stay out. Of course as soon as you tell a teenager don’t go in there, what do you think he or she will do? Michael never imagines he will see anything other than junk and a mouse or two. When he steps into the dusty structure his first look at Skellig is astonishing. Michael thinks he may never see him again or if he is even real.

“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. He was filthy and pale and dried out and I thought he was dead. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d soon begin to see the truth about him, that there’d never been another creature like him in the world.”

Skellig is neither pure fantasy nor realistic fiction but rather a blend of both. Michael soon meets his home-schooled neighbor, Mina who has a passion for William Blake’s poetry, a vast knowledge of birds and a low opinion of public schools. Mina and Michael become close friends and Michael shares his secret about Skellig with her. Together they mend Skellig’s weakening body and move him to a secret hiding place away from danger of being discovered. During the move Michael brushes his hands across Skellig’s back and feels what appears to be a pair of wings.

The mysterious connection between Skellig, Michael, his sister and Mina is expertly woven by Almond’s magical and poignant prose. The story line hovers between life and death for Michael’s sister and Skellig’s own failing health. Everything about Skellig is up to interpretation by the reader. However, there is a tension of magnetism about Skellig that draws the reader into the individual qualities of nature versus nurture. Michael’s father and mother nurture their critically ill daughter, Michael nurtures Skellig and Mina nurtures the little birds and owls in the empty house her grandfather left her.

The book is written for an audience of eight to twelve year olds but I believe many adults will enjoy this story because it shows the value of friendship, family unity, trust and love.

Write it down,



  1. Your articles are read throughs, thats for sure and thte site sure is catchy. I don't think you do anything any better!!!! (I know I'm not supposed to do that, but it is part of my style) But, it confuses me that you switch day to day from childrens' to writers tips to grammar, etc. Doesn't hurt anything, but I look more because the site is so gorgeous than my expectation of what will be there.

    Lisa H.

  2. Lisa I am sorry for the confusion. Writing tips and information is what it is for children and adults in my opinion. Maybe I should have titled my post differently.

    I do appreciate your opinion and you are right I need to be focused more clearly at times. I am thankful for your comments and do hope that you continue to read and comment.


  3. Hi Carma,

    What a great review. I knew nothing of this book because I don't have young ones in the house anymore.

    I still appreciate what is out there for them. They need to read and they need books of this quality level with some real values.

    Your comment about being a great read for adults intrigues me ... maybe in my spare time.


  4. Judy thank you. I heard about Skellig from our own grunt Dorothy in the UK. I am becoming attracted more and more to YA novels. Check it out at your library. It may interest you.


  5. Hi Carma,

    I think I told you about my son's lack of interest in reading due to visual processing problems. I may try this book with him - perhaps if we read it together, he may get interested. His all time favorite book is Holes, so anything like that you can think of, please let me know.


  6. Carma...great review...your insightfulness and detail to your reviews always makes me want to run out and buy the book.

    Warm regards,

  7. Hi Donna,
    Thank you for your kind words. This book was a pleasant surprise to me. I would recommend reading it.


  8. Hi Carma, I found the book quite intriquing and your review summed it up quite nicely. Until our next book. Paulette

  9. Paulette, I really loved the book too. I also look forward to our next one. Sorry I had to miss the discussion.

  10. Hi Carma, This is the best review of Skellig I've read. I'm glad you liked it so much. It's my all-time favourite book. I'm reading it with my eleven year old son, Ben at the moment. He's dyslexic so likes me to read to him. He reads Skellig's dialogue, which is fun. He's become a David Almond fan too and we hope to meet David at the Northeast Children's books Festival later this year. I've met him a few times already and plan to ask if he'll do an interview for my blog. When I get time, I'll review some of David's other books on my blog.
    Thanks for the Brillante Award nomination. It was a lovely surprise.
    I'll keep looking through your window, Dorothy

  11. Thank you Dorothy for the kind words. I thought the characters were so realistic. Normal kids with an abnormal situation.

    I will keep the shades open.


  12. Hi Theresa,
    I think your son would like Skellig. There is enough dialogue there to liven up the story and being that it is a British book, some terms are very new and different. They make you use your imagination.