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Skellig cover.jpg
First edition
AuthorDavid Almond
Cover artistFletcher Sibthorp[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish and 30 more
GenreChildren's fantasy novel, magic realism, fiction
PublisherHodder Children's Books
Publication date
11 August 1998
Media typePrint (paperback)
Pages176 pp (first edition)
LC ClassPZ7.A448 Sk 1999[2]

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.[3] In the US it was a runner up for the Michael L. Printz Award, which recognises one work of young adult fiction annually. Since publication, it has also been adapted into a play, an opera, and a film. In 2010, a prequel entitled My Name is Mina was published, written by David Almond himself.

Delacorte Press published the first US edition in 1999.[2][4]


10-year-old Michael and his family have recently moved into a house. He and his parents are nervous, as his new baby sister was born earlier than expected and may not live because of a heart condition. When Michael goes into the garage, he finds a strange emaciated man 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 Mina from across the road and over the course of the story they become close. Mina is home-schooled and enjoys nature, birds, drawing and the poems of William Blake. 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's friends, Leakey and Coot, become skeptical about Michael and try to find out what he is hiding from them. Michael and Mina try to keep it a secret from them, and have to move "Skellig" to a safer space.

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 family struggles with deciding on a name for the baby. After considering calling her Persephone, they settle on Joy. As it suited her and her appearance.


  • Michael (Main Character)
  • Mina (Michael's friend)
  • Leakey (Michael's friend)
  • Coot (Michael's friend)
  • Skellig (Main character)
  • Joy (Michael's baby sister)
  • Whisper (Mina's cat)
  • Mr. Stone (Real estate agent that sells Michael's family the house)
  • Dr. Death (a.k.a. Dr. Dan, the doctor that comes to Michael's house to check up on the baby)
  • Rasputin (Michael's science teacher)
  • Grace (Old woman from hospital)
  • Dr. MacNabola (A cocky but friendly Dr who Michael talks to in order to figure more about arthritis)
  • Mr. Batley (a Builder)
  • Gus (a Builder and Mr. Batley's son)
  • Nick (a Builder and Mr. Batley's son)
  • Lucy (a student at Michael's school)
  • Mrs. Dando (A yard lady at Michael's school)
  • Miss Clarts (Michael's English teacher)
  • Mrs Moore (The school secretary of Michael's school)
  • "The Yeti" (The corridor keeper)
  • "Monkey Mitford" (Michael's math teacher)
  • Ernie Myers (Former owner of the house)
  • "Mum" (Michael's mother)
  • "Dad" (Michael's father)
  • Mrs. McKee (Mina's mother)


Skellig is deliberately ambiguous about its title character.[5] Almond has provided public answers to some frequent questions from his school visits. The names "Skellig" and "Michael" are derived from the Skellig Islands off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland.[6] One of them is Skellig Michael Island; St Michael is also the name of an archangel.

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 closed-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.[7]


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 of four books on the 2011 Guardian Award shortlist[8] and one of eight on the 2012 Carnegie shortlist.[9] 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."[8]

Delacorte published the US 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."[10][11]


2003 play[edit]

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, designed by John Napier. The original play was conceived from the novel to the play at The Young Vic Theatre, London.[12] Cast included in alphabetical order; Ashley Artus, Noma Dumezweni, Akiya Henry, David Threlfall, Kevin Wathen, Mo Zinal. The play was later performed by Playbox Theatre Company in 2008.[13] 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.[14][15]

2008 opera[edit]

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.[16] The Opera starred Omar Ebrahim as Skellig with Sophie Daneman and Paul Keohone as Michael's parents.

2009 film[edit]

Skellig, produced by Feel Films, was part of Sky 1's plan to invest £10 million in producing three new high-definition dramas.[17] Filming started on 2 September 2008 in Caerphilly in Wales.[18] 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).[19] The screenplay was written by Irena Brignull and filming was directed by Annabel Jankel.[18] The first showing of Skellig on Sky 1 was on 12 April 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Skellig title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 12 June 2014. ISFDB has not catalogued the prequel My Name is Mina.
  2. ^ a b "Skellig" (first U.S. edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  3. ^ e Carnegie Winner 1998. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Formats and Editions of Skellig". WorldCat. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  5. ^ Berman, Matt. "Common Sense Review". Common Sense Media. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  6. ^ "Schools: Information". David Almond. Archived from the original on 12 September 2010. Confirmed 27 November 2060.
  7. ^ Latham, Don (2 January 2006). "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 25 March 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  8. ^ a b Eccleshare, Julia (30 September 2011). "Guardian children's fiction prize: the shortlist". Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  9. ^ 2012 Awards: Carnegie shortlisted books Archived 22 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine. CILIP. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  10. ^ "My name is Mina" (first U.S. edition). LCC record. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  11. ^ "Formats and Editions of My name is Mina". WorldCat. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Skellig at The Young Vic, London". 9 December 2003. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  13. ^ Cripps, Charlotte; l (26 November 2003). "The creature in the garage". The Retrieved 15 September 2008.
  14. ^ Page on the play at Archived 25 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Skellig" (reviews). The Birmingham Stage Company. Review dates 2008 to 2011(?).
  16. ^ Whetstone, David (13 November 2008). "Skellig, the opera, The Sage". Journal Live. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  17. ^ West, Dave (19 March 2008). "Sky One sets three major HD series". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2 September 2008.
  18. ^ a b Holmwood, Leigh (2 September 2008). "Tim Roth to don wings as Skellig". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 September 2008.
  19. ^ Fletcher, Alex (2 September 2008). "Tim Roth confirmed for 'Skellig' cast". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2 September 2008.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Carnegie Medal recipient
Succeeded by