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Kit's Wilderness

Kit's Wilderness

4.6 60
by David Almond, Charles Keating (Read by)

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The Watson family moves to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town, to care for Kit’s recently widowed grandfather. When Kit meets John Askew, another boy whose family had both worked and died in the mines, Askew invites Kit to join him in playing a game called Death. Kit’s association with Askew takes him into the mines where the boys look to find the childhood


The Watson family moves to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town, to care for Kit’s recently widowed grandfather. When Kit meets John Askew, another boy whose family had both worked and died in the mines, Askew invites Kit to join him in playing a game called Death. Kit’s association with Askew takes him into the mines where the boys look to find the childhood ghosts of their long-gone ancestors.

Editorial Reviews

The 2001 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature was awarded to David Almond for his powerful tale of fates, friendship, and family: Kit's Wilderness. When Almond's first book, Skellig, was named a Printz Honor Book for 2000, it marked him as a talent worth watching. Now Almond proves himself once again with a hauntingly beautiful story about lost dreams, undying hope, and the immutable interconnectedness of life.

When 13-year-old Christopher "Kit" Watson and his family pack up and move to the onetime coal-mining town of Stoneygate, it is to care for recently widowed Grandpa Watson. The move is a stressful one for Kit, who struggles to fit in with a new crowd of kids in this depressed, dying town. Plus, Grandpa isn't doing well; his health is deteriorating, and his mind seems prone to odd flights of fancy. Kit finds himself drawn toward two new friends: Alison Keenan, a flashy, bright young gal who is full of energy and life, and John Askew, a hulking, moody fellow who likes to play a game called Death. When Kit is picked as the next to "die" and left alone in a dark, abandoned mine shaft, he has an otherworldly experience that piques his curiosity about the mine's history and the past connections between his family and the Askews.

Kit discovers that generation after generation of his own family eked out an existence in the town's treacherous mines, including a 13-year-old boy named Christopher Watson, who died in the worst mine disaster on record. Another 13-year-old victim from that long-ago tragedy also bore a familiar name: John Askew. These ghosts from the past seem tied to their modern-day namesakes, connected by a thread of fate that stretches across generations. And suddenly Grandpa's crazy musings don't seem so crazy anymore. When John faces a crisis that threatens both his life and his family, the only person who knows how to help him is Kit. But it involves great risk, and Kit must choose between his own safety and that of his friend, a decision that will ultimately save and redeem them both.

Almond's prose has a mesmerizing lyrical quality that is deceptive in its simplicity. His underlying theme of magic -- both ordinary and profound -- and his blend of mystery and mysticism will likely appeal to young audiences who like their stories seasoned with powerful imagery and occasional ambiguity. Kit's Wilderness is a little spooky, a lot of fun, and utterly unforgettable.

--Beth Amos

Publishers Weekly
Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism; and allegory...he takes readers on a thrilling and spine-tingling ride.
Almond has set an enormous task for himself. But he succeeds beautifully, knitting dark and light together and suffusing the multilayered plot with an otherworldly glow.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Revisiting many of the themes from Skellig, Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism and allegory. He opens the novel with a triumphant scene, in which Kit Watson, the 13-year-old narrator, and his classmates, John Askew and Allie Keenan reemerge from "ancient darkness into a shining valley," as if to reassure readers throughout the course of the cryptic tale that the game of "Death," so central to the book, is indeed just a game. Nevertheless, he takes readers on a thrilling and spine-tingling ride. When Kit moves with his mother and father to the mining town of Stoneygate to keep company with his newly widowed grandfather, he feels drawn to John Askew who, like Kit, comes from a long line of coal miners. Askew presses Kit to take part in a game of "Death," for which the participants spin a knife to determine whose turn it is to "die." The chosen one then remains alone in the darkness of Askew's den, to join spirits with boys killed in a coal mine accident in 1821. Some regular players consider the game to be make-believe, but Kit senses something far more profound and dangerous, and the connection he forges with the ancient past also circuitously seals a deeper bond with Askew. Allie acts as a bridge between the two worlds, much as Mina was for Michael in Skellig. The ability that Askew, Kit and his grandpa possess to pass between two seductive worlds, here and beyond, in many ways expands on the landscape Almond created in Skellig. The intricacy and complexity of the book's darker themes make it a more challenging read than his previous novel for children, but the structure is as awe-inspiring as the ancient mining tunnels that run beneath Stoneygate. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-This haunting, lyrical novel by David Almond (Delacorte, 2000) will appeal to teachers because of the beauty of its language and its manipulation of themes. The supernatural elements and gripping story will engage students. Shakespearean actor Charles Keating's narration is especially welcome because his good oral interpretation helps clarify Almond's Briticisms. The story deals with the eerie influence of the past, from the recently defunct mining industry in Kit's ancestral hometown, to the beginning of humankind. It also focuses on the necessity of the arts, particularly the art of storytelling, to the emotional well-being and even survival of those sensitive to the rhythms of the world and the ripples of time. The hook, both for Kit and for the readers, is the game called Death played in an abandoned mine shaft by a group of misfits at Kit's new school. He is invited to join in by John Askew, a brooding social outcast and talented artist. John, who represents the dark side, is also just a boy from a dysfunctional family who desperately needs Kit's help. This audiobook is a must have, even for those libraries where recordings are not usually a priority.-Diana Dickerson, White Pigeon Community Schools, MI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Almond . . . creates a heartbreakingly real world fused with magical realism . . . suffusing the multilayered plot with an otherworldly glow." — Booklist, Starred

"Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism and allegory." — Publishers Weekly, Starred

Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 3 Cassettes, 5 hrs. 04 min.
Product dimensions:
4.43(w) x 7.07(h) x 1.22(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


In Stoneygate there was a wilderness. It was an empty space between the houses and the river, where the ancient pit, the mine, had been. That's where we played Askew's game, the game called Death. We used to gather at the school's gates after the bell had rung. We stood there whispering and giggling. After five minutes, Bobby Carr told us it was time and he led us through the wilderness to Askew's den, a deep hole dug into the earth with old doors slung across it as an entrance and a roof. The place was hidden from the school and from the houses of Stoneygate by the slope and by the tall grasses growing around it. The wild dog Jax waited for us there. When Jax began to growl, Askew drew one of the doors aside. He looked out at us, checked the faces, called us down.

We stumbled one by one down the crumbling steps. We crouched against the walls. The floor was hard-packed clay. Candles burned in niches in the walls. There was a heap of bones in a corner. Askew told us they were human bones, discovered when he'd dug this place. There was a blackened ditch where a fire burned in winter. The den was lined with dried mud. Askew had carved pictures of us all, of animals, of the dogs and cats we owned, of the wild dog Jax, of imagined monsters and demons, of the gates of Heaven and the snapping jaws of Hell. He wrote into the walls the names of all of us who'd died in there. My friend Allie Keenan sat across the den from me. The blankness in her eyes said: You're on your own down here.

Askew wore black jeans, black sneakers, a black T-shirt with "Megadeth" in white across it. He lit a cigarette and passed it round the ring. He passed around a jug of water that hesaid was special water, collected from a spring that had its source in the blocked-up tunnels of the ancient coal mine far below. He crouched at the center, sharpening his sheath knife on a stone. His dark hair tumbled across his eyes, his pale face flickered in the candlelight.

"You have come into this ancient place to play the game called Death," he whispered.

He laid the knife at the center on a square of glass. He eyed us all. We chewed our lips, held our breath, our hearts thudded. Sometimes a squeak of fear from someone, sometimes a stifled snigger.

"Whose turn is it to die?" he whispered.

He spun the knife.

We chanted, "Death Death Death Death . . ."

And then the knife stopped, pointing at the player.

The player had to reach out, to take Askew's hand. Askew drew him from the fringes to the center.

"There will be a death this day," said Askew.

The player had to kneel before Askew, then crouch on all fours. He had to breathe deeply and slowly, then quickly and more quickly still. He had to lift his head and stare into Askew's eyes. Askew held the knife before his face.

"Do you abandon life?" said Askew.

"I abandon life."

"Do you truly wish to die?"

"I truly wish to die."

Askew held his shoulder. He whispered gently into his ear, then with his thumb and index finger he closed the player's eyes and said, "This is Death."

And the player fell to the floor, dead still, while the rest of us gathered in a ring around him.

"Rest in peace," said Askew.

"Rest in peace," said all of us.

Then Askew slid the door aside and we climbed out into the light. Askew came out last. He slid the door back into place, leaving the dead one in the dark.

We lay together in the long grass, in the sunlight, by the shining river.

Askew crouched apart from us, smoking a cigarette, hunched over, sunk in his gloom.

We waited for the dead one to come back.

Sometimes the dead came quickly back to us. Sometimes it took an age, and on those days our whispering and sniggering came to an end. We glanced nervously at each other, chewed our nails. As time went on, the more nervous ones lifted their schoolbags, glanced fearfully at Askew, set off singly or in pairs toward home. Sometimes we whispered of sliding the door back in order to check on our friend down there, but Askew, without turning to us, would snap,

"No. Death has its own time. Wake him now and all he'll know forever after is a waking death."

So we waited, in silence and dread. In the end, everyone came back. We saw at last the white fingers gripping the door from below. The door slid back. The player scrambled out. He blinked in the light, stared at us. He grinned sheepishly, or stared in amazement, as if emerged from an astounding dream.

Askew didn't move.

"Resurrection, eh?" he murmured. He laughed dryly to himself.

We gathered around the dead one.

"What was it like?" we whispered. "What was it like?"

We left Askew hunched there by the river, strolled back together through the wilderness with the dead one in our midst.

From the Audio Cassette (Unabridged) edition.

Copyright 2001 by David Almond

What People are Saying About This

Judy Hobbs
With the strength of his family's love, and the guidance of his grandfather's stories, Kit is able to help David find the goodness and compassion that resides within; an exceptional book for young adults that is not to be missed.
—Judy Hobbs, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Meet the Author

DAVID ALMOND grew up in a large family in northeastern England and says, "The place and the people have given me many of my stories." His first novel for children, Skellig, was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and an ALA-ALSC Notable Children's Book and appeared on many best book of the year lists. His second novel, Kit's Wilderness, won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

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Kit's Wilderness 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 60 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was about twelve or thirteen when I first read this book. I was in a reading club and it was assigned to me. I've been smitten ever since. I simply fell in love with Kit's Wilderness! I didn't quite understand the story when I first read it, but for some reason, I loved it anyway. It was so strange and chilling and foreign. So beautifully written. I would definitely recommend this book to any and all avid readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just read Kit's Wilderness in English class and it was a great book! I couldn't put it down! It has that suspense in it that makes you want to keep reading it. I read it in class with the tape and I think the man who read it to my class did an excellent job.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for kids anywhere from ages 12-15. Although the book is often dark and sometimes frightening, it is a challenge I am glad I took. I couldn't put the book down it was so great. I would definetly put it in my top book list. If you're interested in the paranormal, or an interesting point of view on a historical coal mining town, you don't want to miss this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
David Almond has outdone himself. The situation is both magical and believable. The relationships and characters ring true. This is an extraordinary, powerful book
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought Kit's Wilderness was a great book. I love how David Almond described eveything so clearly and the characters were just so different from eachother and interesting. Iread the whole book in two days because I couldn't put it down. It was great. I would recommed it to everybody, you have to read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book relates to me. I love to write stories just like Kit. When I read about the game called Death, I wanted to play it like Kit. I've always loved to be scared. I've always been drawn into the darkness. I also felt myself being drawn to John. I love this book! It kept me awake at night, with my mind wirling. Anybody who reads this reveiw, the onlt thing I have to say to you is, you made a fine choice with Kit's Wilderness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a thriller,I couldn't put it down.I felt myself at the brink of tears at times and laughter at others.I felt like I was one of his charicters b/c she did seem alot like myself.All in all a great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
My thoughts on this book was that it was one of those stories that you wouldn't mind reading over and over again. I beleive that Almond did a good job of putting himself in the position of a 13 yaer old boy who thinks of the dark past. I would recomend it to anyone who loves to read a book with mystery and with supernatural things. This story is filled with ghosts of the children who seem to haunt the world Kit is in.
pooled_ink More than 1 year ago
pooled ink Reviews: My father is English and his family hailed from the north with his ancestors being coalminers so I felt a bit of a connection from that with this book. To me this book was told in what one could so easily place as an old man imparting wisdom, fairy tale, and memory swirled into one story shared during a cold winter’s night in a tiny village in England. My Granddad is an excellent storyteller (something of which I am envious) and this book feels as if it carries on this fading oral tradition and skill. Charming, unnerving, clever, haunting, and surprisingly true KIT'S WILDERNESS is a book intended for young readers but with deep themes that speak to readers of all ages in a warm voice upon a chilling night. Spun with friendship, ghosts, memory, death and life this story will enwrap you with wonder. Read my FULL review here: https://pooledink.com/2016/02/11/kits-wilderness/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mangokit is a she with red an orange fur. The tom is unamed yet but he is silver and gold.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a friend of rainpelt and you should go back to her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is wierd and dark butbok
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Map-result 1&2. Main camp-result 3. Leaders' den-result 4. Warriors' den-result 5. Apprentices' den-result 6. Kits' den-result 7. Low rock-result 8. Medkit's den-result 9. Burial grounds-result 10. Forest-result 11. Frost forest-result 12. Bios-result 13.~Moonkit and co~
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He padded in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Dreamkit <br> Age: one moon <br> Appearance: Smoky gray fur with white socks on her paws, jade green eyes. <br> Personality: Shy and kind, and talks with a slight stutter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name:Moonlightkit Age:1 moon Gender:Female Personalitu:Bubbly and niave but very caring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: above<p> Age: newborn<p> Appearence: white with blue-grey tints on paws ears and nose. Aquatic blue eyes.<p>Personality: Shy to other cats but likes to explore. Sneaky.<p> Gender: &female<p> Kin: unknown to her.<p> Other: ask<p>
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gender: female Looks: an all white and silver tabby with blue eyes Age: 5 moons old Personality: sweet fierce firery brave smart attractive gentle Fun Fact: very active and want to be deputy and maybe leader oneday but is still fine with being a warrior
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Holds the tiny kit gently by the scruff and carries it to res 3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
NAME Tinlykit GENDER female AGE 9 moons DEFINITOIN OF PELT AND EYES has a caremel colored coat and hazel eyes
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks over to ashkit and ironkit
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sunkit~female, a light golden tabby with green eyes,lovable nice sweet and helpful a bit shy.2 moons, Starkit~female, black with white speks on her paws looking like stars, blue eyes, mischievous,clever, sneaky, but nice,2 moons. We need a mother that will live us no matter what ((adopt them both beacuse there really close))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name- Ironkit <br> Age- 2 moons <br> Gender- Male <br> Looks- Grey pelt, blue eyes, sharp claws. He is a bit muscular. He has bla<3>ck paws, and the end of his tail is bl<3>ack. <br> Personality- Calm. <p> Other- is blind, but has a strong sense of hearing.