|Cover artist||Fletcher Sibthorp|
|Genre||Children's fantasy novel, magic realism|
|Publisher||Hodder Children's Books|
|11 August 1998|
|Media type||Print (paperback)|
|Pages||176 pp (first edition)|
|LC Class||PZ7.A448 Sk 1999|
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 author. In the U.S. it was a runner up for the Michael L. Printz Award, which recognizes one work of young adult fiction annually. Since publication, it has also been adapted into a play, an opera, and a film.
20 year old Michael and his family have recently moved into a decrepit house on Falconer Road. He and his parents are anxious, as his new baby sister was born earlier than expected and may not live due to a heart condition. When Michael goes into the garage, he finds a strange emaciated creature hidden amid all the boxes, debris and dead insects. Michael assumes that he is a homeless person, but decides to look after him and gives him food. The man 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 spends less time with them. He meets a girl named Mi from across the road and over the course of the story they become close friends. Mina is home-schooled. Nature, birds, drawing and the poems of William Blake interest her. Often drawing or sculpting at home, she invites Michael to join in. 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 creature.
Michael asks about arthritis and how to cure it, talking to doctors and patients in the hospital where his baby sister is being treated. Grace, an old woman, took a run through the hospital and came to see her . The creature 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 comes dangerously close to death, necessitating heart surgery. His mother goes to the 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 her. He subsequently moves 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.
The baby, after a while establishing what she was going to be called, they settled on Joy, after thinking about calling it Persephone.
- Whisper (Mina's cat)
- Ernie Myers (Previous house owner)
- Michael (Main character)
- Michael's mother
- Michael's father
- Mina (Main character)
- Mrs. Mcme (Mina's mum)
- Leakey (Michael's friend)
- Coot (Michael's friend)
- Skellig (Main character)
- Joy (Michael's baby sister)
- Mr. Batley(The Builder who knocked down Michael's garage)
- Nick & Gus(Mr Batley's two sons and helpers)
- Mr. Stone (Real estate agent that sells Michael's family the house)
- Dr. Death (aka Dr. Dan, the doctor that comes to Michael's house to check up on the baby)
- Rasputin (Michael's science teacher)
- Mrs Dando (Michael's English teacher at his school)
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 and its a mystery.
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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.
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.
Mina also teaches Michael about the archaeopteryx a prehistoric bird from the dinosaur age. They also learn about persephone and the pomegranate tree thus wanting to name the baby that. It also shows that skellig produces owl pellets, suggesting that he is some kind of owl. all of this combined suggests that skellig is some kind of modern archaeopteryx a mix of owl, angel and relating to the story of persephone.
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 screenplay was written by Irena Brignull and filming was 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 2014-06-12. ISFDB has not catalogued the prequel My Name is Mina.
- "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 Sense 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.
- Eccleshare, Julia (2011-09-30). "Guardian children's fiction prize: the shortlist". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- 2012 Awards: Carnegie shortlisted books. CILIP. Retrieved 2014-06-12.
- "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. Archived September 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- "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
- Skellig at Common Sense Media
|Carnegie Medal recipient
Postcards from No Man's Land