Almond, David. Skellig. Delacorte, 1998. ISBN 0-385-32653-X. $15.95. 182 pp. 5-7 FI Reviewed by Janet O. Francis England’s Carnegie Prize for children’s books this year goes to a delicate fantasy based on hope and sadness with side trips to science, imagination, and William Blake. Michael, his parents, and a new sister have just moved out to the country into a very neglected old house. It needs fixing up and the family takes on the challenge. At least Dad and Michael will be doing the renovations because Mom and Baby (too new to even have a name) are spending time in the hospital since Baby’s heart doesn’t work right. To begin with, Michael’s not even sure that this baby is a good thing, and digging out a 20 year accumulation of dirty trash from the yard and garage is certainly not! Michael’s recreational time, which used to be spent playing football and hanging out with his friends, is now monopolized by fixing up the old house. When Michael finds a flattened, raggy, dead-pale something in the garage, he is appalled and fascinated. He suddenly starts to care about fitting in at school and is rewarded with the friendship of Mina, who is taught at home and proud of it, and who has some ideas of her own about the very much alive creature in the garage. Skellig is densely written and full of new ideas for kids. Mina is studying birds, fossils, and William Blake’s angels, and she sees connections. Michael is worrying about Baby, the creature in the garage, and life in general, and Mina helps him to find his own connections. The creature heals, with their care, enough to become what he was or what he will be. Skellig is his name. Obviously not cut from the same cloth as the Harry Potter books, Skellig has its own voice for the imaginative and curious young reader. It would make a solidly satisfactory read-aloud with lots of possibilities for discussion. This is a book not to be missed.
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