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Skellig by David Almond

Skellig is an American Library Association Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book; it's a juvenile fiction book, and it's about 200 pages long with short chapters and it's a rather fast read.  A few years ago the library got a book called My Name Is Mina which was David Almond's follow up to Skellig.  I put both books on my reading list because I wanted to read Skellig first.  It turns out that while My Name Is Mina is the follow up to Skellig, Mina is actually a prequel to Skellig.

Michael and his parents and baby sister (who remains nameless until the very last sentence of the book) have moved into a new house that can modestly be described as a fixer upper.  It needs lots of work on the house, on the yard and on the garage--everything's dirty, falling together, overgrown, covered in debris, and been left to ruin and neglect by the previous, elderly owner.  But Michael's parents have big plans for the house, although after his sister is born prematurely and must battle health issues, these plans are briefly waylaid while the family keeps vigil over, worries about the very survival of the fragile newborn.

When Michael discovers a decrepit, old man wearing an ancient, black suit propped up against the back wall inside the garage that threatens to fall down around his ears at any moment, Michael's not sure if the man's real or just a figment of his imagination.  The man's very weak, very odd, very pale and very tall.  What is very clear is that the man's not well, that he's just sitting there waiting to die, that he may not even be a man at all.  But if he's not a man, who or what is he?

Michael is a boy with a lot to deal with--more than any boy his age really should have to cope with all at once.  He's adjusting to a new home and new neighborhood; he's missing his friends; he's worried his new sister might die, and then he finds an old man in the garage and now he's got a whole new set of worries.  Is Michael imagining things?  What is the old man, and will he die too if Michael can't find a way to save him?  Where does he come from?

Mina is the quirky, opinionated neighbor girl who befriends Michael, and it is in the unusual Mina that Michael finds someone he can trust.  So one evening he brings Mina into the garage to meet the old man because Michael knows that Mina will know what to do about it.  What ensues is a story about unconditional friendship, the power of love, and what happens when you show compassion to someone who is obviously in a bad situation.  Told in lyrical prose, this is a magical, mysterious story.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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