Apr 9, 2009

Skellig by David Almond

Shortly after moving into a new house, Michael’s pregnant mother gives birth to his little sister prematurely. There are no certainties about whether or not the baby will live, and Michael’s mother and sister stay in the hospital for a long time. Back home, Michael feels lost and lonely. He is drawn to the crumbling garage at the end of the garden, even though he’s repeatedly told to stay away from it. One day he goes in, and there, among the dust and spider webs, he finds a winged man, Skellig. For the most part, Skellig refuses to be helped, though he does allow Michael to bring him aspirin and leftover Chinese food. While his baby sister fights for her life, Michael and his neighbour and new friend Mina try to solve the mystery of just who and what Skellig his.

Mariel earned a cookie for not using the word “gentle” once in her review of Skellig, but I’m afraid I’m not that strong: this book is gentle, and tender and subtle and delicate. I read it in a single sitting on Saturday, but I think it took me until now to process it properly. I knew that I’d liked it, but I was having trouble wording why.

There’s a – I’m not quite sure what to call it – more mystical side to this story that other readers might be able to relate to better than I did. But even being the total skeptic and occasional cynic that I am, I absolutely loved it. I loved it because in the end it’s not really about believing in angels hiding in abandoned garages, or that shoulder blades are where our wings used to be. It’s about people, and kindness, and love. It’s about this sense of awe, of wonder, that I definitely can relate to. And it’s about the mystery of what happens between people: how they connect, what they feel, what they don’t say, the almost invisible ways of expressing tenderness and love.

My favourite character was probably Michael’s neighbour Mina. She’s a very bright girl, who is home schooled and is fond of nature and the poetry of William Blake. She takes Michael around and shows him and owls’ nest, blackbirds, the little wonders of the garden that only become visible to him once he learns how she sees the world. And in return, he shows her Skellig. Both are lonely children, and their friendship develops just when both need a friend the most.

I also really loved the writing itself. Skellig is a short book, but there’s so much to it. And yet the story never crumbles under the weight of it all. Nothing is overstated, but the feelings are all there. Take this scene, for example, which just about killed me:
Dad kicked the leg of the table and the milk bottle toppled over on the table and a jar of jam crashed to the floor.
‘See?’ he yelled. ‘See the state you get me in?’
He raised his fists like he wanted to smash something: anything, the table, me.
‘Go to bloody school!’ he yelled. ‘Get out of my bloody sight!’
Then he just reached across and grabbed me to him.
‘I love you,’ he whispered. ‘I love you.’
And we cried and cried.
Skellig is such a touching book. Read it.

Other Opinions:
where troubles melt like lemon drops
Valentina’s Room
Working Title
Jenny's Books
An Adventure in Reading
As usual, I need more bookshelves
Susan Hated Literature
You Can Never Have Too Many Books
somewhere i have never travelled
everyday reads

(Let me know if I missed yours.)


  1. I need to reread this little book. It was one I read and then bought for my 6th grade classroom library, and I remember liking it and being haunted by it for awhile. But it's been too long, so I'd better put it back on the TBR list.

  2. Oh my. And now I'm crying. It sounds like a special little gem. I'm not sure I've even heard of it before now. Thank you, Nymeth.

  3. Might have to check this one about. It sounds an awful lot like "Earthly Uses" from Margo Lanagan's Black Juice.

  4. I believe this is going to be on UK television over Easter. I definitely want to read it and will definitely be watching it!

  5. I was going to say they've made a TV adaptation of this and are showing it for Easter... but Scrap Girl beat me to it! I hadn't really heard of it before I saw the adverts for it. Strangely, I've been seeing quite a lot of reviews of it lately. Someone's trying to tell me something and I haven't been listening!

  6. Ever since Nick Hornby raved about this in The Believer I've been meaning to get me a copy quick. Hornby has never steered me wrong, and it sounds like he was right about this one too!

    Humm... I have a $5 in Borders Bucks and coupon. What's a girl to do? =)

  7. This is one of those titles that I had hear the name of many times but had no idea what it was about! And it's nothing what I expected...but I'm definitely off to get it now! I shall enjoy :)

  8. I guess you don't get a cookie? Sounds like a great book.

  9. Robin: It's haunting, that's for sure. I hope you enjoy it just as much the second time around :)

    Debi: I owe this one to Nick Hornby. Also, it was a Carnegie Winner and a Printz Honor book! But I guess it's more well-known in the UK. I really think you'll love it. And as it's very short, so it's perfect for the read-a-thon! I plan to post a list tomorrow, and this will be there for sure.

    Loren Eaton: I so have to read that.

    Scrap Girl: I didn't know that! I hope you enjoy both the adaptation and the book :)

    Michelle: I think Nick Hornby got a lot of us bloggers to read it :P

    J.S. Peyton: Yep...he's to blame :P And get it, get it! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Chris: I actually didn't know what it was about either..just that it was supposed to be good :P You shall indeed.

    bermudaonion: lol, nope :P I tried, but I just had to use that word.

  10. This sounds like a really great book. Suey and I just started the Printz Project, and this was an honor book in 2000. I'll get to it someday. Thanks for the review.

  11. I thought I'd heard of this before. What a "gentle" review - LOL.

  12. Nothing wrong with gentle, huh? I'm a skeptic and cynic as well, but I love stories about hope and wishing. The cover is quite beautiful--I had to stare at the image a bit to "get" what was going on. I'll have to be on the lookout for this one.

  13. This sounds like a great read! And I think there's a little skeptic and believer in us all.

  14. Wow! That's an amazing scene. You simply have got to stop adding to my want to read lists :)

  15. I read this some time ago but after such a heartfelt and touching review I may just have to go back and re-read with your thoughts in the back of my mind!

  16. Jessica: I am totally in on the project! I'll be posting about it very soon. Thanks so much for hosting.

    Lenore: The way I worded things is lame and clichéd, but I promise the book itself isn't!

    Trish: Definitely lots of hope here. It's a very sweet story, but with a dark side too, and I love those. I love the cover too.

    Amy: It is! Well, for me, anyway :P

    Ladytink: lol :P Not my fault that the books are good!

    Staci: I bet I'll be re-reading it in the future too :)

  17. I am still looking for a copy! It's at the top of my list! And your review is really good, I liked how you put how they both needed friends at the same time - that's often how it works, isn't it? And you can use the word 'gentle' anytime and still get a cookie! :-P

  18. Hiya just wanted to say yay thanks so much for picking me as a prize winner in your mini challenge. I can not email you as this computer does not have Outlook and keeps trying to make me install it when I click the Blogger email links. My email is bakerjodie@googlemail.com if you want to get in contact with me that way.

  19. I want to read this someday, but I finally have my library holds down to a reasonable level, so I am staying away for a while! Mainly because I have over fifty books out from the library at the moment... There isn't a limit...

    So, all set for starting our buddy read today? Email me if there is a problem!

  20. You find and read some fascinating and unique books, Nymeth. I've never heard of this one but love the sound of it. Wonderful review.

  21. This sounds like a special book and my library has a copy...Maybe a good book for the read-a-thon I'm thinking. Beautiful review.

  22. I love gentle children's books, and yet again, you've added to my TBR pile. This time, though, the book is in an accessible format, unlike the last few. *LOL* So I'll be getting to it sooner rather than later. :D

  23. Sounds like a great read Nymeth, thank you for recommending it!

  24. I wouldn't have thought you were an occasional cynic!
    I'm glad you liked it though. I should re read it sometimes, and I hope to be able to watch the tv adaptation this easter sunday!

  25. Mariel's review convinced me but now I'm double convinced! :)

  26. Susan: lol, thank you for the cookie :P

    Jodie, random.org says you're welcome :P I sent you an e-mail.

    Kailana: I'm really enjoying Flora Segunda so far! And yeah, better focus on that library pile for now :P

    Cath, thank you! I hear there will be a TV adaptation over there this weekend, so I bet the book's about to become more well-known. Which is great!

    Dar: Yes, this is perfect for the read-a-thon. I read it from start to finish in like an hour and a half.

    Shannon: Good to know! I hope you enjoy it :)

    Kim, you're welcome :)

    Valentina: Just occasional :P And I'm mellowing out in my old age :P

    tanabata: And when you read Shakespeare Wrote for Money, you'll be triple convinced :P

  27. Thanks, Nymeth. This one is going on the list!

  28. This book sounds so sweet, and without even reading it I'm very excited that it was adapted to film because it's starring Tim Roth - he's just amazing!

    I always liked that notion that our shoulder blades are leftover from when we had wings. I've also heard that the tailbone is all we have left from our devil tail. :)

  29. The characters seem really interesting. I've never heard of this book before, but I'll look out for a copy

  30. what an interesting cover.
    glad you enjoyed the book.

  31. That's one passage you've there! ;)And this sounds like a good read too!

  32. Argh you just reminded me I meant to watch this yesterday on Sky One and I missed it grr. I read Mariel's review and it sounded really interesting and now yours has made me want to read it even more. Hopefully next year.

  33. Sorry it's been awhile since I've stopped by your blog. I have a new computer on the way, and I should be back on track with my blog reading soon. Anyway, just wanted to thank you for pointing this book out to me. I'm always looking for good short reads. I'll have to keep this one in mind.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  34. Wow, this sounds like a great book! I had never heard of until now, but that quote cinched it for me. Going to have to go out and get this one. Thanks!

  35. Jenclair: Enjoy!

    Joanne: It is very, very sweet :) And lol! I like your point :P

    A Hazra: The characters are great!

    Naida: I love the cover too.

    Melody: It really is a powerful scene.

    Rhinoa: that's too bad you missed it. I wanted someone to tell me if it was a good adaptation :P

    Anna: Like I told you over at your blog, no worries at all! :)

    Zibilee, I really hope you enjoy it!

  36. Great review, Nymeth and I can't believe I didn't post on this one when you first posted it...

    I loved this book when read it a couple of years ago.

    I first became aware of it through an English teacher friend of mine who had met David Almond (through a school visit I think). It was hinted at quite strongly that I need to read the thing, or soon, or I was an idiot.

    Well, I'm not an idiot, and I listen to the advise of my friends ;)

    I loved Skellig and especially Michael and Mina's friendship.

    And even though it was in my pre-book-blogging days, I still had a blog and I can't believe I didn't review it at the time, I feel a re-read could be in order so I can fix that unacceptable omission! ;)

  37. It clap i did it in skol ordgrey shit as ma bum

  38. Hello! I just stumbled upon this blog by accident and absolutely loved everything I've seen so far. Congratulations! <3!!!

    I just wanted to leave you a comment to this particular post because you said your favourite character in Skellig was Mina and I wondered if you knew there is a prequel starring Mina as the main character? Well, it's really more like her diary, and it's absolutely delightful. I strongly recommend it.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and words!


  39. Hi Paula,

    I did know, but I haven't read it yet. I keep eyeing it at the library but somehow never bring it home. Thanks for reminding me that I should! And thank you also for the kind words about my blog - they made my day <3


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.