Raven Summer

Raven Summer

4.5 2
by David Almond

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Liam and his friend Max are playing in their neighborhood when the call of a bird leads them out into a field beyond their town. There, they find a baby lying alone atop a pile of stones—with this note pinned to her clothing:


Liam and his friend Max are playing in their neighborhood when the call of a bird leads them out into a field beyond their town. There, they find a baby lying alone atop a pile of stones—with this note pinned to her clothing:

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Booklist, September 15, 2009:
"The kindness in every chapter is heartbreaking too. A haunting story, perfect for group discussion."

Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 9, 2009: “Almond tackles complex questions about humanity
 from multiple points of view; flashes of wisdom—sometimes painful, sometimes uplifting—arrive at unexpected moments”

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2009: “[A] hypnotic, sensuous foray into the nature of war, truth, art and the savagery of humanity.”

Publishers Weekly
In a thought-provoking coming-of-age story, British writer Almond (Skellig; Clay) delves into the darkest realm of the human psyche as he expresses the conflicting urges of an adolescent. Liam is walking with a friend when a mysterious raven leads them to an abandoned baby. The boys are lauded for bringing the infant safely home, but Liam doesn’t feel heroic. While he has enormous tenderness for the infant (and a pair of foster children he meets), he is deeply affected by acts of violence: sordid videos sent to him by a classmate, visceral accounts of war, and a local art gallery’s display of disturbing images. His mother dismisses the pictures as “voyeuristic trash,” but his father thinks they may have value: “Maybe they’re showing us how horrible the world is.” Liam’s views vacillate and his morals are tested several times, but never as dramatically as during a final reckoning, when violence seems the only way to save a friend’s life. Almond tackles complex questions about humanity from multiple points of view; flashes of wisdom—sometimes painful, sometimes uplifting—arrive at unexpected moments. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)
VOYA - Chris Carlson
Summer vacation is adventurous for high school student, Liam. In the woods, he and his friend Max find an abandoned baby, who is later fostered by Liam's mother. He is harassed by Nattrass, a childhood friend who now leads a gang of bullies intent on scaring others with their cruel games. He meets Crystal and Oliver, two foster children scarred by horrific events in their lives, who run away together, seeking Liam to cover for them. The three eventually hide out in a cave near Liam's Northumberland village. After Nattrass and his chums find the runaways, Liam attacks him with a knife, nearly killing him in a fit of anger. Almond shows his deftness at presenting his characters with psychological dilemmas. In this book, he probes the motivation for individuals to resort to violence. He effectively juxtaposes the innocence of the baby with the bullying of Liam's peers and the violent games that children sometimes play, suggesting that perhaps violence is something that can be programmed. He also contrasts the normalness of country life with violent events going on in other places. It is a dark novel, suited more for mature male readers; however, they may find Liam almost too immature for his supposed age and the constant attention on war and violence too disturbing. Despite these flaws, Almond can be credited with raising important questions about the nature of violence and the influence of parenting on children's behavior. Reviewer: Chris Carlson
School Library Journal
Gr 7–9—Liam lives with his father, a famous writer, and his mother, a photographer, on Britain's Northumbrian coast. One day out wandering with his friend Max, Liam is led by a raven to a baby left with a note and some money. When Liam and his parents visit the infant's foster family, Liam connects immediately with two of the foster children, Crystal, a wild-child girl, and Oliver, a refugee from Liberia. Liam's mother falls in love with the baby, and she comes to live with his family. When Crystal and Oliver run away to Liam's secret hideaway, Oliver reveals his true identity, and Liam is forced to explore the darkest parts of his own soul as he realizes the evil he is capable of doing. Raven Summer is set in the recent past against the backdrop of the war in Iraq. It explores how children everywhere are physically and psychologically scarred by violence and brutality that they cannot escape and can be led to do horrible things. Almond's story is a passionate plea for peace, and the putting away of weapons of war. While the question of the book's audience is a valid one, and while there are perhaps a few places where the children seem impossibly wise, and are even perhaps acting as mouthpieces for the author, this book is exquisitely crafted and will make any reader stop and think about the consequences of violence.—Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO
Kirkus Reviews
With a storyteller's flair and a poet's precision, Almond reveals the fierce intensity of childhood, and this rare acknowledgment permeates his latest novel set in England's Northumberland in the time of Bush and Blair. A noisy raven leads 14-year-old Liam Lynch and his best friend to a golden-haired baby lass, abandoned in ruins. This fairy-tale story captures the media's imagination (and even that of his preoccupied famous-author father) and ultimately leads Liam to the green-eyed Crystal, a passionate, troubled foster-care teen who considers him "normal" in part because he's loved by his family, and Oliver, a Liberian refugee who isn't telling his whole, awful story. Liam's colorful entourage forces him to examine the very nature of evil-is it the barmy, bullying Nattrass, who delights in staging blindfolded beheadings? Is it in Oliver's eyes? In his own? Was even the sweet foundling born a beast and murderer? The baby's happy coos, even as Iraq-bound planes fly overhead, ground this hypnotic, sensuous foray into the nature of war, truth, art and the savagery of humanity. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Children's Literature - Jeanna Sciarrotta
The summer that Liam and his friend Max follow the raven becomes one that will change the course of their lives forever. The raven leads them directly to an abandoned baby with a note pinned to her clothing and a jar of money. Liam takes the baby home, and after months of searching for the parents, the baby is placed in foster care. When Liam visits the foster family, he meets Crystal, a troubled free spirit and Oliver, a young boy escaping the war in his home country of Liberia. The pair intrigue him, and they form an instant, though cautious bond. The foster parents soon find themselves having to give up all three children, and Liam's mom decides that they should adopt the baby while Crystal and Oliver move on to other foster families. Soon after, Crystal disappears and Liam knows that it is only a matter of time until she and Oliver show up in his town, looking for him. In this book, David Almond reinvents the coming-of-age story into a twisted tale involving war, broken friendships, and negligent parenting. Much like his other novels, this newest tale is artfully woven together and explores the darker side of humanity. Teachers and librarians, beware: readers who have enjoyed his other works will not be disappointed, but this book is not for the reluctant reader or the wandering mind. This book demands readers' full attention if they are to follow the characters and slightly jagged plotline. Reviewer: Jeanna Sciarrotta

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt


It starts and ends with the knife. I find it in the garden. I'm with Max Woods. We're messing about, digging for treasure, like we did when we were little kids. As always there's nothing but stones and roots and dust and worms. Then there it is, just below the surface, a knife with a wooden handle in a leather sheath. I lever it out of the earth. The curved blade's all tarnished, the handle's filthy, the sheath's blackened and stiff and starting to rot away.

I laugh in triumph.

"Treasure at last!"

"Huh!" says Max. "It's just an old pruning knife."

"Course it's not! It's from the ancient Romans or the reivers. It's a weapon of war!"

I hold it up towards the sun.

"I name thee . . . Death Dealer!" I say.

Max mutters under his breath and rolls his eyes. I stab the knife into the earth to clean. I wipe it on the grass. I spit on it and rub it. I pick up a stone and try to sharpen it.

Then a bird flutters onto the grass six feet away.

"Hello, crow," I say.

"It's a raven, townie," says Max. He imitates its call. "Jak jak! Jak! Jak jak!"

The raven bounces, croaks back at him.
Jak jak! Jak jak!

"It's after the worms," says Max.

"No. It's seen something shiny! It's seen Roman gold! There, look!"

I dig like a maniac for a few daft moments. I stab the earth, plunge the knife deeper. Then my hand slips and blood's pouring out from my wrist. I scream, then laugh at myself and press my finger to the little wound.

Max mutters again.

"Sometimes I think you're crackers," he says.

"Me too," I say.

We lie in the grass and stare at the sky. It's early summer, hardly more than spring, but the sun's been pouring down for weeks. The ground's baked hard, the grass is already getting scorched. It'll be the hottest summer ever, and the story is they'll keep on getting hotter. The dust and soil's like a crust on my hands and arms. It mingles on my wrist with the dark red of drying blood, just like a painting or a map.

A low-flying jet thunders over us, then another, then _another.

"Begone, you beasts!" I call.

I flourish the knife at them as they streak away southwards over Hadrian's Wall, over the chapel of St. Michael and All Angels and out of sight.

Then my wound's bleeding again. I'll need a plaster. We get up and head for the house.

"It's all yours, Jack," I say.

I expect the bird to hop into the hole, but it doesn't. It flies over us and lands again six feet in front of us, looks at us, then flies a bit further on, lands, and looks at us again.

"You can tame them, you know," says Max.


"Aye. We had one when I was a squirt. It was great-lived on the back path, begged for food at the door, perched on your wrist. Jak jak! Funnily enough, we called it Jack."

"What happened to it?"

"Joe Bolton shot it." He holds the air like he's holding a gun. "Kapow! He said it was trying to nest in his chimney. But I think he just wanted to kill something. Kapow!"

He waves his arms and runs at it and it flaps up into the sky.

"Go on! Get lost! Shoo!"

Inside the house, I find the plasters. I rub some of the dirt off the wound with a bit of kitchen towel, blot the trickling blood, then stick the plaster on. I clean more dirt off the knife blade. I wash it with soap. I sharpen it on the knife sharpener on the kitchen wall. I spray furniture polish on the handle and wipe it. I spray the sheath as well, and I bend it and run it between my fingers and straightaway it starts softening. I smile.

"Very nice," I say.

I loop my belt through the sheath and the knife sits there at my hip.

"What d'you think?" I say.

"I think you'll get arrested," he says. "It's against the law."

I laugh.

"A pruning knife? Against the law?"

I tug my T-shirt over it, hiding it.

"OK now?" I say.

I get some bread and cheese and lemonade and we sit on the bench at the back door. The raven's on the gatepost now.

Jak jak! Jak jak!

It stabs its beak towards us. It flutters its wings, it bounces and bobs.

"What do you want?" I laugh.

Jak jak! Jak jak!

A printer whirrs upstairs. Dad, hard at work as usual. We look up, towards his open window.

"What's he writing now?" says Max.

"Dunno. He tells nobody nothing till it's finished."

We chew and listen.

"Weird," says Max.

I swig the lemonade, swipe my wrist across my lips.

"Aye. Sometimes it's like having a ghost in the house. Come on. Let's head out, eh?"

So we leave the garden.


We get onto the footpath that skirts the house, then head along the long potholed lane towards the village. There's a single hiker in a red cap moving ahead of us. There's kids on the field beside the village school. Somebody's screaming, like they're getting lumps kicked out of them. Then there's a cheer and a howl of laughter, and a bunch of them break away and belt uphill towards Great Elm.

"Want to join in?" I say.

"Mebbe," says Max.

Gordon Nattrass appears at the edge of the field. He watches us from the fence, then he jumps over it and comes towards us. He's carrying a rusty saw in his hand.

"Hello, brothers," he says.

Brothers. It's what he always says.
"What you up to, brothers? Where you off to, brothers?"

"Nowt," says Max.

"Nowhere," I say.

"What you up to?" I say.

He grins.

"Fun and games," he says. "Come on over, eh?"

Another jet screams over us and streaks away towards the east.
"Bomb them back to the Stone Age!" yells Nattrass, then he spits. "Come on," he says.

I'm about to go with him, but Max holds back.
"Mebbe later," he says.

I look at Max. I look at Nattrass. Nattrass and I were friends when we were small. We did the blood brothers thing one day, cutting our thumbs, then pressing the wounds together and letting our blood flow into each other. I touch the knife at my hip as I remember it. But it was ages back. After that he started changing, started becoming the Nattrass we know today.
He winks at me.

"OK, brother," he says. "Later, then. I'll look out for you."

He rests the saw blade at the side of his neck, then drags it back like he's going to saw his head off. He laughs, runs back to the field, and soon there's more screaming.

"I hate that bastard," says Max.

"Me too," I say.

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." He worked as a postman, a brush salesman, an editor, and a teacher, but began to write seriously after he finished college. His first novel for children, Skellig, was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and an ALA Notable 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 literature for young adults. David Almond lives in England with his partner and their daughter.

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Raven Summer 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
One discovery, one event, can change your life forever. For Liam, it was following a raven, which would ultimately lead him into one of the darkest summers he would ever experience. With the raven came the discovery of a little baby, abandoned with just a note labeling her as "a childe of God," and a jar of money. Liam and his friend, Max, take turns carrying the baby on the way back to Liam's house, knowing that this lovely-smelling baby will need milk, clothes, a family. Without an appearance of the baby's parents, she is quickly taken to a foster family, where Liam meets Crystal and Oliver. RAVEN SUMMER continues with the introduction and Liam's encounters with characters that have had dark experiences or are experiencing dark thoughts. There is the foster child, Oliver, a refugee from Liberia, who fled after his parents were murdered and before he could do any harm to others. His dark past and what he was dangerously taught still haunts him, as his scar is a blatant reminder of what his life was like before experiencing a "safer" world. Then there is Gordon Nattrass, a friend of Liam's whose mind turns to the dark as he enjoys the actions of beheading, torturing, and bullying animals - and some humans. Liam himself can't help but think of violent images of war, as all around him are wars between countries and even somewhat between his friends. RAVEN SUMMER is a dark, compelling, and intriguing novel with complex and sometimes even frightening thoughts. It strongly expresses the evil and violence that encompass the world through the minds and eyes of all ages. The novel concludes by connecting the lives of the younger cast of characters with a climatic ending, including a game turned awry. This is a novel that one must experience firsthand in order to truly understand what a classic it will be one day.