|Genre||Children's fantasy novel, magic realism|
|Publisher||Hodder Children's Books|
|Publication date||11 August 1998|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
|Pages||176 pp (first edition)|
|LC Classification||PZ7.A448 Sk 1999|
|Followed by||My Name is Mina|
Skellig is a children's novel by the British author David Almond, published by Hodder in 1998. It was the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year and it won the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's outstanding children's book by a British subject. In the U.S. it was a runner up for the Michael L. Printz Award, which recognizes one young-adult fiction annually. Since publication, it has also been adapted into a play, an opera, and a film.
A 10 year old boy named Michael and his family have moved into a new house that is very old and falling apart. He and his parents are anxious as his new baby sister was born prematurely and may not live due to a heart condition. When Michael goes into the garage, amid all the boxes, debris and dead insects he finds a strange emaciated man. Michael assumes that he is a homeless person, but decides to look after him and gives him food, though he is crotchety and arthritic, demanding aspirin, Chinese food menu order numbers 27 and 53 and brown ale. Michael hears a story that human shoulder blades are a vestige of angel wings. Meanwhile his friends from school become more and more distant as Michael stops attending school and so spends less time with them. He meets a girl named Mina from across the road and over the course of the story they become very close friends. Mina is home schooled and is interested in nature, birds, drawing and poems by William Blake to which her parents introduced her. She takes care of some baby birds who live in her garden and teaches Michael to hear their tiny sounds. Michael decides to introduce her to the strange old man.
Michael asks about arthritis and how to cure it, talking to doctors and patients in the hospital where his baby sister is being treated. The man whom Michael had moved from the garage—revealing a pair of wings at his shoulders—introduces himself as "Skellig" to Michael and Mina.
Michael's baby sister is ill and comes dangerously close to death and must undergo heart surgery. His mother goes to hospital to stay with the baby and, that night, "dreams" of seeing Skellig come in, pick the baby up and hold it high in the air, saving Michael's little sister. He subsequently moves on from the garage after saying goodbye to Michael and Mina, answering their questions about his nature by saying that he is 'something', combining aspects of human, owl and angel.
Michael and Mina curiously asked Skellig what he was and in the end he said he was 'something' like an angel.
- Michael (main character)
- Michael's Mum
- Michael's dad
- Mina (main character)
- Mrs Mckee (Mina's mum)
- Joy or grace (Michael's fatally ill baby sister)
- Skellig (main character)
- Mrs Dando ( a teacher at Michael's school)
- Doctor Dan (A.K.A: Doctor Death )
- Grace (old lady)
- Rasputin, (their school teacher)
- Doctor MacNabola and his students
- Leaky (Michael's best friend from before he moved to the new house)
- Coot (Michael's other friend)
- Ernie (previous owner of the house)
Almond has provided public answers to some frequent questions from his school visits. Among other points, "The book is set in my house and my garage. When we moved here, the garage was in the same condition as the garage in the book, and there really was a toilet in the dining room." As a boy he had a baby sister and he learned from his mother that "shoulder blades are where our wings used to be, when we were angels." When he wrote the book he didn't know what Michael would find in the garage. As of 2012, he claims he doesn't yet know what Skellig is.
Skellig is deliberately ambiguous about its title character. The implication is that he is some kind of angel is obvious, but his general demeanour and attitude differ sharply from traditional ideas about angels, leading the reader to consider ideas of religious imagery and the role of mysteries in life. There are obvious religious references in the text but, like the poet William Blake (who is quoted in the novel), many of them revolve around unconventional religious concepts. Early in the novel there are numerous references to evolution, some in a spiritual context.
The names "Skellig" and "Michael" are derived from the Skellig Islands off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. One of them is Skellig Michael Island; St Michael is also the name of an archangel. The short text brings in so many ideas that readers and critics report widely diverse interpretations of "what the book is about". Short speeches on art, love, health, life and death, evolution, nature, Blake, education and family share a common context.
Almond has acknowledged the influence of "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings", a short story by Gabriel García Márquez. Paul Latham compares the works in a research article, "Magical Realism and the Child Reader: The Case of David Almond's Skellig". Despite many similarities, he notes that Almond's child protagonists are much more caring and accepting than the close-minded and sometimes cruel adults in the Márquez story. Also, Mina and Michael keep Skellig a secret from the rest of human society. Thus the negative social commentary in Skellig, regarding medical institutions and other aspects of adult society, is not as harsh as in Márquez's story.
Hodder published Almond's 300-page prequel to Skellig late in 2010, My Name is Mina (ISBN 978-0-340-99725-3). It was one four books on the 2011 Guardian Award shortlist and one of eight on the 2012 Carnegie shortlist. Both The Guardian and the Carnegie panel recommend Mina for readers age nine and up. According to children's book editor Julia Eccleshare, "Almond promotes and celebrates freedom for children and their thinking in this lyrical book about growing up."
Delacorte published the U.S. edition in 2011. According to the summary, "Creative, intelligent, nine-year-old Mina keeps a journal in her own disorderly way that reveals how her mind is growing into something extraordinary, especially after she begins homeschooling under the direction of her widowed mother."
Skellig was adapted into a play in 2003 directed by Trevor Nunn who thought it was important to follow the book's example of not revealing Skellig's exact nature. The play was later performed by Playbox Theatre Company in 2008. In March 2011 the play was performed at the New Victory Theater, New York by The Birmingham Stage Company who previously toured the UK with their production, from 2008 in London and Birmingham. The BSC founder and manager Neal Foster played Skellig.
Skellig has been adapted into a contemporary opera with music by American composer Tod Machover and libretto by David Almond himself. The opera was staged at The Sage Gateshead from 4 November to 19 December 2008, with orchestration by the Northern Sinfonia. The Opera starred Omar Ebrahim as Skellig with Sophie Daneman and Paul Keohone as Michael's parents.
Skellig, produced by Feel Films, was part of Sky 1's plan to invest £10 million in producing three new high-definition dramas. Filming started on 2 September 2008 in Caerphilly in Wales. Cast members included Oscar-nominee Tim Roth in the title role and Bill Milner as Michael Cooper with Skye Bennett as Mina, Kelly MacDonald and John Simm as Michael's parents (Louise 'Lou' and Steve Cooper). The film was scripted by Irena Brignull and directed by Annabel Jankel. The first showing of Skellig on Sky 1 was on 12 April 2009.
- Skellig title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- "Skellig" (first U.S. edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- (Carnegie Winner 1998). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- "Formats and Editions of Skellig". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- "Schools: Information". David Almond. Confirmed 2012-11-24.
- Berman, Matt. "Common Sense Review". Common Sence Media. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
- Latham, Don (2006-01-02). "Magical Realism and the Child Reader: The Case of David Almond's Skellig". The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children's Books (The Looking Glass) 10.1. Archived from the original on 2008-03-25. Retrieved 2008-02-21.
- "Guardian children's fiction prize: the shortlist". Julia Eccleshare. guardian.co.uk 30 September 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- [dated info] "The Carnegie Medal: Current Shortlist". CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- "My name is Mina" (first U.S. edition). LCC record. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- "Formats and Editions of My name is Mina". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-10-14.
- Cripps, Charlotte; l (2003-11-26). "The creature in the garage". The Independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-09-15.
- Page on the play at www.newvictory.org.[dead link]
- "Skellig" (reviews). The Birmingham Stage Company. Review dates 2008 to 2011(?).
- Whetstone, David (2008-11-13). "Skellig, the opera, The Sage". Journal Live. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
- West, Dave (2008-03-19). "Sky One sets three major HD series". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
- Holmwood, Leigh (2008-09-02). "Tim Roth to don wings as Skellig". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
- Fletcher, Alex (2008-09-02). "Tim Roth confirmed for 'Skellig' cast". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2008-09-02.
- Skellig in libraries (WorldCat catalog) —immediately, first US edition
- Skellig on Sky1, Easter 2009: cast interviews and behind the scenes exclusives[dead link]
- "Risk and Resilience, Knowledge and Imagination: The Enlightenment of David Almond's Skellig", Elizabeth Bullen and Elizabeth Parsons, Children's Literature 35 (2007) 127–44
- Reviews and discussions of the ideas in Skellig[dead link]
- Skellig at Common Sense Media
|Carnegie Medal recipient
Postcards from No Man's Land