Book review: Skellig by David Almond

Someone was giving away books, and this one caught my eye. It’s listed as middle grade—for ages 8 to 12—which I frequently read to (1) research books my kids might like in a few years (2) stay sharp for writing my Corgi Capers series and (3) be able to read something in a day or two that is simple enough to read while watching my preschoolers.

I really enjoyed this book. It enters magical realism, following a ten-year-old named Michael, who has recently moved to a new house with a creepy garage full of stored items from a previous owner. His unnamed baby sister is sick, mostly in the hospital, and his parents are mostly focused on her and on renovating the new house.

In the meantime, Michael befriends a homeschooled girl named Mina, who encourages him to think outside the box. He also sneaks into the garage and finds a strange person/creature/being that he can’t forget about. The back of the book teases us with the possibilities: person, angel, bird?

The language is elevated—even though it’s for 8 to 12 year olds, I did not feel it was overly simple. It was poetic and beautiful. The suspense of whether the baby will survive is enough to carry the story, but the author adds in the mystery of who the being is hiding in the garage, along with Michael’s own personal growth.

I won’t give away too much, but some of the magical realism reminded me closely of the short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez, with discussions of whether our shoulder blades were meant to hold wings. Perhaps it especially resonated with me because as a child, I would wake up every day and look at my back in the mirror, sure that one day I would sprout wings.

I have put more of Almond’s books on my TBR list, and I look forward to reading them ?

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