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The Savage

( 2 )


Mysterious and utterly mesmerizing, this graphic-novel-within-a-novel pairs the extraordinary prose of David Almond with the visual genius of
Dave McKean.

Blue Baker is writing a story — not all that stuff about wizards and fairies and happily ever after — a real story, about blood and guts and adventures, because that's what life's really like. At least it is for Blue, since his dad died and Hopper, the town bully, started knocking him and the...

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Mysterious and utterly mesmerizing, this graphic-novel-within-a-novel pairs the extraordinary prose of David Almond with the visual genius of
Dave McKean.

Blue Baker is writing a story — not all that stuff about wizards and fairies and happily ever after — a real story, about blood and guts and adventures, because that's what life's really like. At least it is for Blue, since his dad died and Hopper, the town bully, started knocking him and the other kids around. But Blue's story has a life of its own — weird and wild and magic and dark — and when the savage pays a nighttime visit to Hopper, Blue starts to wonder where he ends and his creation begins.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Remarkable." — THE TIMES (U.K.) — Times, The (UK)

"An extremely touching and cleverly conceived story of how wounds can gradually heal." — THE IRISH TIMES — Irish Times, The

Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Since Blue's dad died, school counselor Mrs. Malloy has been encouraging him to write out his feelings. But Blue, thinking that it "just seemed stupid, and …even made me feel worse," rips up what he has written and starts writing an entirely different story. Blue is a good son trying to help his family manage in spite of their grief. He is, by his own description, scrawny. For years, he has been targeted by Hopper, a mean kid who capitalizes on the death of Blue's dad to make his life even more miserable. The boy in Blue's story, on the other hand, is vicious and uncivilized, living underneath the ruins of an old chapel in the woods. He steals what little he needs—an ax, a knife—and kills animals to stay alive. He has no language, grunting and snarling like a wild dog. In the story, the lives of Blue and the Savage boy begin to intersect. Blue dreams of the Savage punishing the local bully; the next day, Hopper shows up with a black eye and split lip. In the story, the Savage observes Blue and his young sister Jess having a picnic in the woods and sees Jess dancing around. Then one day, Blue runs away from school and meets the Savage boy in the woods. On the walls of the cave-like room where he lives are images of Blue, Jess and their parents. Had the boy imagined Blue and drawn him before Blue even began to write the story? In the darkness of the hideout, Blue hears his Dad's voice reassuring him and encouraging him to be happy. Blue shares the story he's written with his mom and Jess, growling and dancing in the telling until they both laugh. The drawings are as wild and unruly as the Savage himself, conveying the feelings Blue could not otherwise express. This could be awonderful book to offer a tween who's suffered a loss or is dealing with a bully. The elements of revenge and empowerment offered through writing serve as a constructive model for coping. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Rebecca C. Moore
After Blue's father dies, the bully Hopper ratchets up his persecution. Blue vents his feelings through a graphic novel about a wild boy living in the local woods: "If anybody ever seen him he chased them and cort them and killed them and ate them and chucked their bones down an aynshent pit shaft." As Blue's story progresses, he first writes in Hopper-"he wud taste . . . horibil"-and then himself. Seeing the difference between the boys, the Savage-and Blue-begin to improve. Anyone expecting the Savage to remain a simple cathartic representation of Blue's emotions, however, does not know Almond. When Blue writes the Savage beating up Hopper, and Hopper shows up with a black eye, the line between reality and story blurs. Blue knows he must seek out the Savage's cave to find the truth-and the end of the story. In vintage Almond style, this short, half-graphic novel leaves readers unsure where the Savage's story ends and Blue's begins. It feels much like Kit's Wilderness (Delacorte, 2000/VOYA April 2000), although its brevity renders it somewhat less powerful. Blue is a realistic, appealing protagonist, though, and in penning Blue's story of the Savage, the author ably captures the bloodthirsty writing style (and spelling) of middle school boys. The Savage's tale is enhanced by McKean's grotesquely distorted figures, painted in bold black brush strokes on atmospheric shadings of blue and green. Recommend this one to fans of Almond, ambiguity, and the often blurred line between reality and illusion. Reviewer: Rebecca C. Moore
VOYA - Kevin Birrell
This short novel's uniquely dark art style should appeal not only to its target audience, but to older readers who might appreciate the art more than the story. The heartwarming tale about recovering from grief gets its point across well and the child-like writing works excellently both with the illustrations and the story's theme. The supernatural aspect adds intrigue. This is a good quick read for middle schoolers and shouldn't be overlooked. Reviewer: Kevin Birrell, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal

Gr 5-9

Blue is scrawny and nice. He is harassed by a big, dumb, smoking boy named Hopper. Blue's father died suddenly when he was younger. To cope, he wrote a comic book about a feral boy who gets to express his anger and loneliness through violent revenge, something Blue can't or won't do. Then parts of the story merge with real life. The characters' conversations and relationships are believable. The story is so thin, though, that there's little chance to care about the players. McKean's tonal watercolor panels, which illustrate roughly half of the pages, are full of palpable rage-gorgeous, frightening, and highly effective images. They set an ornery, mysterious mood that Almond's lackluster story never quite matches. Though the prose is clear and simple, the pace, in an attempt to build mystery, is too methodical for so obvious an allegory. The phonetic spelling in Blue's comic indicates a child much younger than the novel's somewhat confusing chronology indicates.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library

Kirkus Reviews

Fantasy and reality mix in the psychodrama of a fictional feral child who steps out of his story. Grieving over his father's death, young Blue begins writing privately about a boy who lives in the local wood on raw game and scavenged garbage: "If anybody ever seen him he chased them and cort them and killed them and ate them and chucked their bones down an aynshent pit shaft. He was savage. He was truly wild." Narrating in a mix of prose passages and slashing, two-color sequential panels depicting a bony, shirtless, knife-wielding lad, Blue describes how, after he puts himself, his little sister and a local bully into his tale, he finds tangible evidence that the wild boy has visited all three as they slept. As a grimacing, gesticulating embodiment of raw emotion in McKean's pictures, the wild boy makes a visible and effectively unsettling stand-in for Blue's own emotional turmoil—and indeed, in the climax the alter egos come together for a healing encounter. The art ramps up the intensity of this provocative outing. (Fantasy. 11 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763639327
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 10/14/2008
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,011,515
  • Age range: 11 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David Almond, the author of MY DAD'S A BIRDMAN, illustrated by Polly Dunbar, is known worldwide for his novels SKELLIG, KIT'S WILDERNESS, HEAVEN EYES, and THE FIRE EATERS. The winner of a Carnegie Medal and a Michael L. Printz Award, he lives in Northumberland, England.

Dave McKean is the illustrator of the children's books CORALINE, THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH, and THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS (a NEW YORK TIMES Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year), all by Neil Gaiman. He also created art for Neil Gaiman's series THE SANDMAN and designs for two Harry Potter films. He lives in Kent, England.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Grandma Bev for

    This is a strange combination of picture book and novel for older readers that is unsettling at best. A young boy's fantasy, the story and the illustrations are both filled with raw emotions that border on frightening and reflects the main character's own experiences and feelings. <BR/><BR/>Blue's counselor advises him to try writing down his feelings to help deal with the pain of his father's death, but that really doesn't work very well. Then Blue starts to write a story about a wild child who lives in the woods and who, on occasion, kills and eats people. <BR/><BR/>His story tells about the savage child interacting with Blue and his sister, and how the Savage hates the boy, Hopper, that bullies Blue at school. <BR/><BR/>McKean's illustrations show a wild child who is bony and shirtless, armed with a knife. Blue begins to believe that the Savage may be real, since he is sure there is evidence that the Savage visits him while he sleeps. <BR/><BR/>The idea that what you write becomes real is not a new one, and when the bully, Hopper, receives a beating in his bedroom during the night, Blue is sure that his fantasy has become reality. <BR/><BR/>Almost a graphic novel, THE SAVAGE is filled with fast action, suspense, and characters that are realistic. It is an exciting story that should appeal to the imagination of reluctant readers, too. <BR/><BR/>Don't we all have a bit of the Savage lurking somewhere just beneath the surface?

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  • Posted December 30, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    not sure

    I'm not sure about this book. I don't this book is showing a good way for teens to deal with loss or bullying. There are so many other ways to deal with those kinds of issues. The illustrations are excellent though.

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