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Description

Skellig is a fiction book for children aged 9 – 12 about a young boy called Michael, who, whilst moving in to a new house and having to deal with his sister being ill, discovers a mystical creature in his garage. The book balances somewhere between reality and fantasy as the setting for the book is an ordinary suburban street until this fantastical being is found.

Reader's Reviews

The book is about a boy called Michael and a discovery he makes in an old crumbling garage. The only person he can confide in is his friend Mina. Michael and Mina share each others secret place which adds strength to their relationship. The book is written from the thoughts and through the eyes of Michael, his family life and school life. The story grips you from sad situation Michael finds his parents in with their new born child’s illness, to the mysterious creature that lives in the family garage.

Children will be griped by the language David Almond uses to describe the depths of the gloomy garage with its spider webs and bugs. The Author keeps the reader guessing as to what the creature is. Short and well written chapters make it recommendable for a teacher to read aloud as a whole class book for all primary aged children and convenient to pick up and carry on reading or link to a particular Literacy/English learning objective if necessary, affirming to the children the fact that reading helps them achieve good Literacy skills.

The vividness of the author writing will inspire children to act out the scenes within the book during ‘playtime’ as the characters are very distinct in their personality and the storyline is fascinating within short chapters make them memorable. The rhythmical flow of the language and mentions of William Blake poetry is valuable as you can make connections to music, dance, drama and song.

1

The book is very mystical and slightly unnerving as you never get to find out exactly what Skellig is although it is hinted he is some kind of angel. However, he is not what people might assume a conventional angel. He is in a shabby dirty suit, staying alive by eating spiders when Michael finds him and instead of being religious and saintly keeps asking Michael to bring him beer and Chinese food. The book also contains vivid descriptions so even though you may never know what Skellig is you know exactly what he looks like.

The book is also a highly emotional story and Almond does a brilliant job of conveying different emotions of all his characters. The book is written from the point of view from the main character Michael. Michael is dealing with a myriad of emotions whilst his baby sister is ill and Almond uses the fact it is in first person to really explore these emotions and not shy away from the despair he is feeling.

2

The book Skellig was David Almond’s first novel, published in 1998 and received immediate claim. The book won both the Carnegie Medal (1998) and the Whitbread Children's Book Award (1998). In 2007, it was shortlisted for the Carnegie of Carnegies.

The themes of the book revolve around friendship, loyalty, family units, faith and responsibility as well as many other aspects impacting on childhood and well-being.

The story talks about Michael, a young boy, who moves into a new house with his family and discovers a strange frail creature in the decrepit, crumbling garage next to their house. Together with his new friend and neighbour Mina, Michael decides to help the creature and slowly discovers more and more about his intriguing and mysterious identity. Through their adventure, which almost seems like a dream, both children’s lives and view of the world is changed forever.

The book is written with a lot of understanding, compassion and sensitivity especially since Michael, the main character is in a fragile, emotional state throughout the book.

The style of the book is very engaging and motivating. There is a good balance between dialogue and description and it is very easy to imagine what is happening in the story. The main character is not attached to any particular background so anyone can easily identify and relate to him. The book can be read on different levels but is probably most suitable for Year 5s and 6s.

Age Group: Year 4 – 5 – 6

3

Skellig is an emotive tale revolving around strong themes of nurture, the value of friendship, trust and love (to name but a few). The story centres around a 10-year old boy named Michael and the unique discovery he stumbles upon after entering a forbidden garage in his garden. The interesting point to note, regarding the creature that Michael discovers and which Almond does very well, is that we as readers never get a direct label for Michael’s discovery. We simply know him as “Skellig”. The clues we are given in the text are that Skellig is crippled with Arthritis; has lived on a diet of insects and spiders and is surrounded by owl pellets. Skellig continues to recite numbers from a Chinese takeaway and later in the tale we discover, through Michael, that Skellig has wings.

A strong theme of relationships and the importance of those relationships flow throughout the story. The most notable relationships are those that involve Michael’s relationship with Skellig; his relationship with his younger sister who has a heart condition and his relationship with his friend Mina.

The character of Mina is an insightful and thought-provoking young girl who is a product of home-schooling. She holds one of the more insightful lines from the book in which she echoes what we as readers are probably thinking and states, “Sometimes we just have to accept there are things we can’t know”. The most obvious case of that being are lack of clarity in regards to Skellig’s actual identity.

The story unfolds cleverly through the tale and the ending doesn’t disappoint. We are left with a real sense of fulfilment yet still left in a sense of wonder and reflection.

Would make ideal reading for Years 5 and 6.

Michael has just moved home. His sister is very ill. Mum and Dad are either worrying about his sister or worrying about the house. But who is worrying about Michael? As Michael tries to deal with this whirlwind of emotions he stumbles across Skellig, a strange creature hiding in his Garage. Along with his new found friend Mina, Michael embarks on a journey to discover who Skellig is and who he himself is.

Skellig is dark, haunting and beautiful. The sadness and joy you feel for the characters really draws you into the book compelling you to learn more; who is Skellig? Where did he come from? What will happen to Michael’s sister?

The book explores theme’s of isolation and uncertainty; Michael has moved house away from the familiar, he no longer feels able to connect with his former friends, his mum and dad are totally preoccupied by his sisters illness, and he has no idea whether his sister will survive or who Skellig is and how he can help him. Children who are experiencing similar experiences may benefit from reading the book; conflicts are resolved in the book and it may actually offer comfort and insight to those experiencing similar feelings.

This book would be better aimed at children through year’s five to six due to the content and complexity of feelings it explores. Word of warning: there are three instances of inappropriate language for primary ages therefore it may be best to either ‘bleep’ them out if you are reading to the child, or find a way to ‘delete’ them from the book.

4

David Almond’s first novel Skellig is one of the most extraordinary children’s novels published in recent years and will provide children with an exciting and mysterious story that will have their imagination running wild. It is most suited to children aged 8-11.

It follows the story of Michael, a young boy who has recently moved into a new house, only to find that an old and strange creature has taken refuge in his garage. With the help of his new friend Mina, a girl who spends her days exploring nature and climbing trees, Michael embarks on a mysterious adventure full of twists and turns in a bid to save this decaying creature and discover its true identity. What they discover is beyond-their wildest dreams and they quickly realise that there is a lot more to their world than it first seems.

There are strong themes within this novel such as family, friendship, education and discovery, all of which offer children the chance to think about how other children live, how the most unlikely of people can become the best of friends and how learning isn’t just something that happens inside the classroom.

The story is fresh and engaging and will have children leaving behind their games consoles in favor of an adventure. What will they discover?

5

Michael and his parents have just moved into their new house but his baby sister has fallen ill. He is unsure what is wrong, he is unsure of what to do and he is unsure of what is inside the garage. By exploring his feelings, finding new friends and entering the garage, a new world of hope opens up to Michael.

This book brings together a lot of fears and worries that may affect children, whether it be directly within their family or understanding a friend’s situation. The book touches on new babies coming into a family, moving house, illness and possible death within the family and making new but different friends.

As we follow Michael’s emotional journey, we can see how he deals with his emotions to avoid upsetting his parents and showing his friends he’s upset. Following the story unfolding we see Michael open up, share his emotions and let people help him. As Skellig reveals more about himself Michael becomes more confident about his sisters recovery as well as more confident within himself. All these topics are covered from a child’s perspective therefore help children consider the feelings that may arise when someone falls ill, or they are moving in to a new house or making new friends.

The book is well written using easy to interpret language and would definitely be suitable for children aged 9+. It is an excellent book to share with your children as it covers many topics in a way that make them easier to talk about.

6

In this novel Almond captivates the audience through a fictional story narrated by a young boy called Michael who is aged ten. Michael is on a spiritual journey which involves moving house and the birth of his new born sister who is critically unwell. Alongside the changes being made in Michael’s life he discovers a mystical creature; Skellig. Skellig is not the conventional magical character; he lives in Michael’s garage, wears shabby clothes and has been surviving by eating spiders. The story then evolves into a beautiful journey involving Michael developing a friendship with a young girl named Mina, the pair care and nurture for Skellig who then thrives and grows from the kindness and love which is given to him by the children. Another element to the story is the health of Michael’s sister who undergoes heart surgery which is successful. Michael’s mother has a vision of a creature she described to be exactly like Skellig, holding the baby and giving her the strength to survive.

The story shows how Michael who was reluctant and negative about moving home, settles into his new environment and develops a close friendship suggesting that changes which may seem negative may end up having positive impacts. The emotional element in the book of having a family member who is critically unwell is a subject which may be close to the hearts of many students. The book gives children hope and an understanding that they are not alone in difficult situations. Teachers could use this book with students who are aged between nine and thirteen. The book helps children to understand and learn about kindness, changes in lifestyle and coping with illnesses and difficult times. 

7  

David Almond’s Skellig, published in 1998 is a novel aimed at children in upper KS2 and is a text used widely in secondary schools for Year 7 students.  The reader follows the trials and tribulations of 10 year-old Michael who has moved to a new house with his parents and poorly baby sister. Michael soon becomes intrigued by the creepy and forbidden garage, which he has received strict orders from his parents to never to go into. Michael’s fascination leads him to discover a lonely creature who he initially suspects is homeless. This discovery has life-changing effects for Michael and his family.  

Skellig also explores the theme of friendship. Michael, who is initially estranged from his friends, meets his neighbour Mina and they build an incredible bond. Through the character of Mina the reader is introduced to alternative methods of schooling as Mina is home-schooled and is fascinated with nature and the poet William Blake. Michael and Mina overcome their worries together and their friendship becomes stronger as the story progresses.

Throughout his story Almond uses beautiful language which flows with ease and this makes the story incredibly comforting. The reader can also identify with Michael as at the beginning of the text both Michael and the reader are in an unfamiliar setting and the reader learns and discovers the mystery of Skellig alongside the novel’s protagonist.

Skellig is an ambiguous yet thought-provoking read which delves into religious and spiritual concepts. The novel covers real-life issues such as the difficulties families face when a child is hospitalised and the damaging effects this has on both adults and children. Throughout the tale Almond embeds the unfamiliar and the magical within the everyday life of a child, and this combination serves as an interesting and challenging resource for children in Years 5 and 6.   

8   

Skellig (1998) is an award winning children’s novel written by David Almond that tells the reader the story of a young boy’s mysterious discovery. Michael, age 10, acts as narrator whilst he undergoes a time of change in his life; he has recently moved house, is seeing less of his friends and his family exists in a state of anxiety following the news that his new baby sister has a dangerous heart condition. One day when exploring his new home, he discovers something strange living in his garage. Exactly what this humanoid creature is, Michael is never truly sure. All he really knows is that he appears to suffer from arthritis, loves Chinese takeaway and is called “Skellig”.   

Several themes are dealt with throughout the book. One such theme is the impact of friendship, mostly resulting from Michael’s befriending of the eccentric home-schooled neighbour Mina, who goes on to introduce him to the world of nature, birds and poems. Subtle religious themes are also encountered throughout, based on Michael’s suspicion that Skellig could be an angel, and the inclusion of William Blake poetry from Mina. Finally, the central theme of unknowing and ambiguity resonates across the story, and teaches that sometimes it is alright to not know the details.

Children will undoubtedly enjoy this book along with the unique mysterious feel that accompanies the puzzle revolving around Skellig. The book may well cover some mature content, but Almond’s use of audience-appropriate language and flowing style retains the story’s accessibility. As a result, the book will encapsulate a young audience and pique their imaginations.  

9  

The children’s novel Skellig written by David Almond is a heart-warming story about friendship, faith, grief and love. When 10-year-old Michael discovers a strange looking being in the garage of his parents new but dilapidated house he keeps it a secret from everyone. Everyone except Mina, his next door neighbour and new friend. The mysterious man, Skellig is clearly injured and weak so Michael and Mina feed him with Chinese food and brown ale to build his strength up. As Michael and Mina’s friendship towards Skellig grows through their visits to him so their fondness to each other. As Skellig builds up to full health he eventually reveals a secret that causes some discomfort for Michael. Meanwhile, Michael’s baby sister is in hospital with a life threatening heart condition.  Michael is convinced that his sister will die from the heart surgery and is troubled by the newfound news about Skellig. He becomes increasingly detached from his friends and his schoolwork and one can only empathise with the pressures inflicted on Michael. Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for Michael?    

The author intelligently builds curiosity throughout the story asking the question “what actually is Skellig?” His introvert, mysterious character adds emphasis to the slightly dark tone of the book and amplifies the tension that builds throughout. The character building is fantastically strong within the book and the story touches on many themes such as love, grief and companionship. Although the the author does cover some quite mature themes and there is the occasional but infrequent use of some mildly strong language this an ideal read for children aged between 9-15 particularly years 5 and 6. The author also references William Blake, who is a great introductory figurehead into poetry for children of this age group.  

Parental Guidance

  • Reading Age: 9+
  • Reading Aloud Age: 9+

Book contains discussions of death which some younger children may find upsetting.

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External Links

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