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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Michael's family has just moved to an old fixer-upper. But his baby sister is in the hospital with a heart problem, and Michael feels devastated and helpless.
When he sneaks into the crumbling garage, Michael finds a stranger named Skellig living (or apparently dying) there, a man immobilized by arthritis, subsisting on insects and spiders, and surrounded by owl pellets. While helping him, Michael discovers that the man is oddly light and has strange growths on his back that may be wings. \
\ As Skellig begins to inhabit Michael's dreams, he and his new friend, Mina, help Skellig into an abandoned house. There Skellig seems to have an odd relationship with the owls, who bring him food. And as Michael's mother keeps vigil by the baby's hospital bed, Michael begins to feel his sister's heart beating within his own, and Skellig appears in his mother's dreams as well.
Is it any good?
David Almond's gorgeously weird first novel holds readers entranced in a spell woven of moonlight, owls, and poetry. The author uses language to weave an intricate spell, and there are unforgettable scenes that are burned into memory in an instant: the moment Michael first discovers Skellig, covered with spider webs and dead bluebottles; a room lit only by shafts of moonlight, in which the children and Skellig join hands and dance in a circle that floats into the air; Michael's mother, half-dreaming, seeing Skellig lifting her ailing baby out of her hospital bed, and watching as wings seem to sprout from the infant's back.
Another unusual and compelling feature is that it is never really clear just what Skellig is -- human, bird, angel, or all three. But in this strange and soaringly lyrical story, Michael and Mina are comfortable with ambiguity ("Sometimes we just have to accept there are things we can't know," Mina says), and the reader of this haunting story will have to accept this as well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mysterious Skellig and whether he's part animal, part human or something altogether different. Do you think Skellig is an angel? Do you believe in angels? Why or why not? If you had to draw a picture of Skellig, what would he look like? Parents and kids might also enjoy researching the works of English poet William Blake, whom Mina refers to on several occasions.