Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Gr 5-9-Two lonely children form a bond when they secretly take on the care of a crusty, otherworldly old man living in a ramshackled garage. A mystical story of love and friendship. (Feb.) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
British author Almond confidently narrates this recording of his first novel for young people. Michael and his family have just moved to a new home, which proves more dramatic than any of them had imagined. The house is a true fixer-upper, and Michael's new baby sister, born prematurely, is seriously ill. While his parents are consumed with worry about the baby, Michael is left alone with his own fears. But when he explores the house's crumbling garage, he discovers a frail creature with wings who becomes a most magical friend. It's hard to say whether the creature, which eventually introduces itself as Skellig, is a man, an angel or a ghost. As Michael and his new neighbor Mina spend time with Skellig, they learn about the transforming power of caring and love as they tend to Skellig's infirmities and cater to his fondness for Chinese takeout. Part mystery, part fantasy, Almond's story is made all the more memorable by his easygoing delivery and distinctive accent. Ages 8-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4-9-Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister's ill, his parents are frantic, and Dr. Death has come to call. What is the strange thing beneath the spiderwebs and dead flies in the crumbling garage? The only person Michael can confide in is his new friend Mina. Together they carry the creature out into the light, and Michael's world changes forever. By David Almond. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 5^-8. Who is Skellig? Or, more correctly, what? When Michael discovers the ragged, dusty man existing on dead flies in the garage, he is shocked. But the riddle of Skellig must compete with Michael's constant worry about his baby sister, who can't seem to get well. British writer Almond, in his first book for young people, weaves a story that is part mystery, part dream, part anxious everyday life. Michael, who has moved to a new house that is sadly in need of repair, finds friendship with a girl next door, with whom he shares the secret of Skellig. It is Mina, with her authoritative knowledge of birds, who shows Michael the secret lives of owls and other birds in the area. The children's discovery that Skellig, too, has wings growing from his shoulder blades, though an extraordinary revelation, seems quite fitting as the children embark on the difficult mission of keeping Skellig alive. In many ways, this novel raises more questions than it answers. Readers are not given any definitive answers about who Skellig is, and this may bother younger readers who have the skill to read the book without the sophistication of knowing how to plumb for its deeper meanings. Accomplished readers, however, will find this an amazing work. Some of the writing takes one's breath away, especially the scenes in which Almond, without flinching, describes the beauty and the horror that is Skellig. Almond is also wise enough to root the plot in the family's reaction to baby Joy's illness, thus keeping the story earthbound where it needs to be before it soars and flies away. --Ilene Cooper
Horn Book Review
The line between reality and fantasy can be very thin, and the interval between life and death even thinner. Michael becomes aware of both these truths in the course of this narrative, which begins when he and his family move into a new house. In addition to the usual anxieties accompanying such upheaval, he and his family are preoccupied with his gravely ill newborn sister. While investigating a collapsing garage on their property, he stumbles upon a stranger. From the very first page, Almond lets us know that we are in the presence of something extraordinary. ""It was as if he had been there forever. He was filthy and pale and dried out and I thought he was dead."" Simultaneously repulsed and drawn to him, Michael tries to keep the stranger alive with food and medicine. He meets a home-schooled neighbor, Mina, an odd girl who is a storehouse of knowledge about birds and William Blake, and takes her to see Skellig; together they glimpse wings growing from his shoulders. Just as Skellig seems to exist somewhere between life and death, so too does Michael's baby sister, and these two plot threads are adroitly intertwined in a web that connects Skellig and the baby, not just thematically but in visual terms as well: the infant's ""face was dead white and her hair was dead black""; Michael says about Skellig, ""I thought he was dead....I shined the flashlight on his white face and his black suit."" Mina and Michael move Skellig to an attic where he feeds on carrion brought him by a pair of owls. He dances a mystical, Blakean dance with the two children, then, perhaps in a dream, visits the baby in the hospital and dances with her. She survives, and Skellig departs. Is he an angel? An owl-man? We're left with mysteries just beyond our grasp. In his first novel for children, British author David Almond has given them something singular to reach for. n.v. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
Almond pens a powerful, atmospheric story: A pall of anxiety hangs over Michael (and his parents) as his prematurely born baby sister fights for her life. The routines of school provide some relief, when Michael can bear to go. His discovery, in a ramshackle outbuilding, of Skellig, a decrepit creature somewhere between an angel and an owl, provides both distraction and rejuvenation; he and strong-minded, homeschooled neighbor Mina nurse Skellig back to health with cod liver pills and selections from a Chinese take-out menu. While delineating characters with brilliant economy'Skellig's habit of laughing without smiling captures his dour personality perfectly'Almond adds resonance to the plot with small parallel subplots and enhances his sometimes transcendent prose (`` `Your sister's got a heart of fire,' '' comments a nurse after the baby survives a risky operation) with the poetry of and anecdotes about William Blake. The author creates a mysterious link between Skellig and the infant, then ends with proper symmetry, sending the former, restored, winging away as the latter comes home from the hospital. As in Berlie Doherty's Snake-Stone (1996) or many of Janet Taylor Lisle's novels, the marvelous and the everyday mix in haunting, memorable ways. (Fiction. 11-13)