( 64 )


Young readers will by enchanted by this magical tale of friendship and family:Michael was looking forward to his new house and neighborhood, until his infant sister became very ill. Now his parents are constantly frantic, the scary doctor is always coming around, and Michael feels helpless. When he goes out into the old rickety garage, he comes across a mysterious being living beneath spider webs and eating flies for dinner. This creature calls himself Skellig, and over the weeks Michael and his new friend Mina ...
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Young readers will by enchanted by this magical tale of friendship and family:Michael was looking forward to his new house and neighborhood, until his infant sister became very ill. Now his parents are constantly frantic, the scary doctor is always coming around, and Michael feels helpless. When he goes out into the old rickety garage, he comes across a mysterious being living beneath spider webs and eating flies for dinner. This creature calls himself Skellig, and over the weeks Michael and his new friend Mina bring Skellig out in to the light, and their worlds change forever.
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Editorial Reviews

Cathy Hainer
Skellig is the first mainstream Gothic novel for kids to deal unblinkingly with the genre's big time themes, including the fragility of life and redemptive power of love.
USA Today
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
British author Almond confidently narrates this recording of his first novel for young people. Michael and his family have just moved to a new home, which proves more dramatic than any of them had imagined. The house is a true fixer-upper, and Michael's new baby sister, born prematurely, is seriously ill. While his parents are consumed with worry about the baby, Michael is left alone with his own fears. But when he explores the house's crumbling garage, he discovers a frail creature with wings who becomes a most magical friend. It's hard to say whether the creature, which eventually introduces itself as Skellig, is a man, an angel or a ghost. As Michael and his new neighbor Mina spend time with Skellig, they learn about the transforming power of caring and love as they tend to Skellig's infirmities and cater to his fondness for Chinese takeout. Part mystery, part fantasy, Almond's story is made all the more memorable by his easygoing delivery and distinctive accent. Ages 8-up. Apr. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
The dilapidated garage at his new home arouses Michael's curiosity but he is unprepared for what he finds inside. Almost indiscernible from the surroundings is Skellig, someone (or something) "filthy and pale and dried out" and having what appears to be wings. At the same time, Michael is coping with the fact that his premature baby sister is battling for her life. These two seemingly disparate events come together in an incredible way. His free-spirited friend Mina sums it up by stating, "We have to allow ourselves to see what there is to see, and we have to imagine." Almond explores the power of love and the presence of angels in a fascinating tale rich with stone and bird imageries. The reader is quickly drawn into this story because of the strong sense of place and well-developed characters. Mystery and metaphor combine for a story that is extraordinary.
To quote from KLIATT's Jan. 1999 review of the hardcover edition: Mina and Michael have seen Skellig together, a strange creature who lives in Michael's old garage, eating Chinese take-out and owl pellets. One magical time the three joined hands and danced in a circle, and the children grew wings from their shoulder blades and learned what it means to fly. In the midst of these wondrous things, Michael is trying to understand why his tiny baby sister is so fragile, and he worries that she will die. He and his father are trying to take care of each other while the mother is staying at the hospital with the baby. Michael's concerns for his little sister have taken him to some edge of awareness where he is able to see Skellig....Skellig is a strange book, certainly a memorable one. It isn't the usual fantasy, rather there is something about it that makes the reader feel if he or she just looked a bit harder and listened more carefully, many wondrous creatures would be there to find...Almond, who is British, has written for adults, but this is his first world for children. (Editor's note: Skellig is the winner of England's Carnegie Medal; it is a Horn Book Fanfare Book and an ALA Notable Children's Book.) KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1998, Dell/Yearling, 182p, 20cm, $4.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Two lonely children form a bond when they secretly take on the care of a crusty, otherworldly old man living in a ramshackled garage. A mystical story of love and friendship. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-9-Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister's ill, his parents are frantic, and Dr. Death has come to call. What is the strange thing beneath the spiderwebs and dead flies in the crumbling garage? The only person Michael can confide in is his new friend Mina. Together they carry the creature out into the light, and Michael's world changes forever. By David Almond. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
NY Times Book Review
...[A] fine book; it reads like an adventure story, studded with ...details of family life and school...a story about worlds enlarging and the hope of scattering death.
Kirkus Reviews
Almond pens a powerful, atmospheric story: A pall of anxiety hangs over Michael (and his parents) as his prematurely born baby sister fights for her life. The routines of school provide some relief, when Michael can bear to go. His discovery, in a ramshackle outbuilding, of Skellig, a decrepit creature somewhere between an angel and an owl, provides both distraction and rejuvenation; he and strong-minded, homeschooled neighbor Mina nurse Skellig back to health with cod liver pills and selections from a Chinese take-out menu. While delineating characters with brilliant economy-Skellig's habit of laughing without smiling captures his dour personality perfectly-Almond adds resonance to the plot with small parallel subplots and enhances his sometimes transcendent prose (" `Your sister's got a heart of fire,' " comments a nurse after the baby survives a risky operation) with the poetry of and anecdotes about William Blake. The author creates a mysterious link between Skellig and the infant, then ends with proper symmetry, sending the former, restored, winging away as the latter comes home from the hospital. As in Berlie Doherty's Snake-Stone (1996) or many of Janet Taylor Lisle's novels, the marvelous and the everyday mix in haunting, memorable ways. (Fiction. 11-13) .
From the Publisher
"Its strength as a novel is in its subtlety. . . . Skellig is a fine book." — The New York Times Book Review

"British novelist Almond makes a triumphant debut in the field of children’s literature with prose that is at once eerie, magical, and poignant." — Publishers Weekly, Starred

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385326537
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 433,355
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 490L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

“I grew up in a big extended Catholic family [in the north of England]. I listened to the stories and songs at family parties. I listened to the gossip that filled Dragone’s coffee shop. I ran with my friends through the open spaces and the narrow lanes. We scared each other with ghost stories told in fragile tents on dark nights. We promised never-ending friendship and whispered of the amazing journeys we’d take together.

“I sat with my grandfather in his allotment, held tiny Easter chicks in my hands while he smoked his pipe and the factory sirens wailed and larks yelled high above. I trembled at the images presented to us in church, at the awful threats and glorious promises made by black-clad priests with Irish voices. I scribbled stories and stitched them into little books. I disliked school and loved the library, a little square building in which I dreamed that books with my name on them would stand one day on the shelves.

Skellig, my first children’s novel, came out of the blue, as if it had been waiting a long time to be told. It seemed to write itself. It took six months, was rapidly taken by Hodder Children’s Books and has changed my life. By the time Skellig came out, I’d written my next children’s novel, Kit’s Wilderness. These books are suffused with the landscape and spirit of my own childhood. By looking back into the past, by re-imagining it and blending it with what I see around me now, I found a way to move forward and to become something that I am intensely happy to be: a writer for children.”

David Almond is the winner of the 2001 Michael L. Printz Award for Kit’s Wilderness, which has also been named best book of the year by School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. He has been called "the foremost practitioner in children's literature of magical realism." (Booklist) His first book for young readers, Skellig, is a Printz Honor winner. David Almond lives with his family in Newcastle, England.

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Read an Excerpt

I found him in the garage on a Sunday afternoon. It was the day after we moved into Falconer Road. The winter was ending. Mum had said we'd be moving just in time for the spring. Nobody else was there. Just me. The others were inside the house with Dr. Death, worrying about the baby.

He was lying there in the darkness behind the tea chests, in the dust and dirt. It was as if he'd been there forever. He was filthy and pale and dried out and I thought he was dead. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'd soon begin to see the truth about him, that there'd never been another creature like him in the world.

We called it the garage because that's what the real estate agent, Mr. Stone, called it. It was more like a demolition site or a rubbish dump or like one of those ancient warehouses they keep pulling down at the wharf. Stone led us down the garden, tugged the door open, and shined his little flashlight into the gloom. We shoved our heads in at the doorway with him.

"You have to see it with your mind's eye," he said. "See it cleaned, with new doors and the roof repaired. See it as a wonderful two-car garage."

He looked at me with a stupid grin on his face.

"Or something for you, lad-a hideaway for you and your pals. What about that, eh?"

I looked away. I didn't want anything to do with him. All the way round the house it had been the same. Just see it in your mind's eye. Just imagine what could be done. All the way round I kept thinking of the old man, Ernie Myers, that had lived here on his own for years. He'd been dead nearly a week before they found him under the table in the kitchen. That's what I saw when Stonetold us about seeing with the mind's eye. He even said it when we got to the dining room and there was an old cracked toilet sitting there in the comer behind a plywood screen. I just wanted him to shut up, but he whispered that toward the end Ernie couldn't manage the stairs. His bed was brought in here and a toilet was put in so everything was easy for him. Stone looked at me like he didn't think I should know about such things. I wanted to get out, to get back to our old house again, but Mum and Dad took it all in. They went on like it was going to be some big adventure. They bought the house. They started cleaning it and scrubbing it and painting it. Then the baby came too early. And here we were.

Chapter 2

I NEARLY GOT INTO THE GARAGE that Sunday morning. I took my own flashlight and shined it in. The outside doors to the back lane must have fallen off years ago and there were dozens of massive planks nailed across the entrance. The timbers holding the roof were rotten and the roof was sagging in. The bits of the floor you could see between the rubbish were full of cracks and holes. The people that took the rubbish out of the house were supposed to take it out of the garage as well, but they took one look at the place and said they wouldn't go in it even for extra money. There were old chests of drawers and broken washbasins and bags of cement, ancient doors leaning against the walls, deck chairs with the cloth seats rotted away. Great rolls of rope and cable hung from nails. Heaps of water pipes and great boxes of rusty nails were scattered on the floor. Everything was covered in dust and spiders' webs. There was mortar that had fallen from the walls. 'There was a little window in one of the walls but it was filthy and there were rolls of cracked linoleum standing in front of it. The place stank of rot and dust. Even the bricks were crumbling like they couldn't bear the weight anymore. It was like the whole thing was sick of itself and would collapse in a heap and have to get bulldozed away.

I heard something scratching in one of the corners, and something scuttling about; then it all stopped and it was just dead quiet in there.

I stood daring myself to go in.

I was just going to slip inside when I heard Mum shouting at me

"Michael! What you doing?"
She was at the back door.
"Didn't we tell you to wait till we're sure it's

I stepped back and looked at her.
"Well, didn't we?" she shouted.
"Yes," I said.
"So keep out! All right?"
I shoved the door and it lurched half shut on its
single hinge.
"All right?" she yelled.
',All right,” said. "Yes. All right. All right."
"Do you not think we've got more to worry about than stupid you getting crushed in a stupid garage?

"You just keep out, then! Right?"
"Right. Right, right, right.
Then I went back into the wilderness we called garden and she went back to the stupid baby.

Copyright 2001 by David Almond
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Reading Group Guide

1. Michael is very unhappy at the beginning of the novel. Discuss how Michael's life changes after he discovers Skellig and meets Mina. Think about ways that you deal with fear and loneliness. How can you help a friend who appears unhappy?

2. Almond never gives the reader a specific description of Skellig. Based on the glimpses of Skellig found throughout the novel, what is your impression of Skellig? How might Michael describe Skellig at the end of the novel?

3. Michael brushes his hands against Skellig's back and detects what appear to be wings. When he asks his mother about shoulder blades, she answers, "They say that shoulder blades are where your wings were when you were an angel . . . where your wings will grow again one day." What does this statement reveal about Skellig?

4. When Michael questions why Skellig eats living things and makes pellets like an owl, Mina answers, "We can't know. Sometimes we just have to accept that there are things we can't know." Why is this an important moment in the novel?

5. When Michael's soccer teammates discover his friendship with Mina, they begin teasing him. How does this affect Michael's relationship with them? Why do you think they make fun of Mina? How does she handle the teasing? How would you handle the situation if your classmates made fun of a special friend?

6. Discuss Michael's relationship with his mother and father. How does the baby's illness put a strain on these relationships? How is Michael's relationship with his parents different from Mina's relationship with her mother?

7. At the same time that his sister is undergoing heart surgery, Michael discovers that Skellig is gone. Mina calmsMichael by quoting William Blake: "[Blake] said the soul was able to leap out of the body for a while and then leap back again. He said it could be caused by great fear or enormous pain. Sometimes it was because of too much joy. It was possible to be overwhelmed by the presence of so much beauty in the world." Why do you think Mina quoted this passage to Michael? How are fear and pain related? How are joy and beauty related? How does Skellig represent all these qualities?

8. What does the nurse mean when she describes Michael's baby sister as having a "heart of fire"? Why does Michael want to name the baby Persephone? Why is Joy an appropriate name for her? What other names might symbolize her journey and her place in the world?

9. Skellig returns for one last visit with Michael and Mina. What do you think is Skellig's purpose for entering Michael's life? How does he touch other lives? Do you think he'll ever return?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 64 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 64 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 1, 2011

    Amazing Book

    This book is one of my favorites! It has a good puller and a great setting. This book is amazing! I recommend it to children and teenagers

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012


    This book was amazing! It was very edge of your seat and perfect for all ages. I would definatly reccomend this book. The plot is very interesting and descriptive.....READ THIS BOOK!!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2005


    this was about the best book i have ever read! The realistic beginning of the book and then in the middle you find out a fantasy part of it! It was very interesting and I think everyone should read it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2013

    I hate it!!!!

    Who hares this this man it has cuss words not good for kids!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2007


    David Almond¿s book Skellig was pretty well written. This book has a especially interesting theme of friendship, angels, and family tragedies. This book was extraordinarily fictional because it talks a lot about angels. For example every time he goes into his garage he sees an old ghost like creature but he can¿t tell what it is. I thought that it was interesting how it was set in England and they call soccer football, and Mom ¿Mum.¿ In this book the one of the main characters Michael has just moved into a new neighborhood. Plus his sister was born prematurely and has been in the hospital for almost her whole live. Michael¿s mother has to stay at the hospital with the baby so, it¿s just Michael and his dad in the new house. Michael is a very athletic kid and loves sports. His next door neighbor¿s name is Mina and she is home schooled. She is extremely interested in birds and whenever you can¿t find her you can almost guarantee that she is in a tree drawing a bird. Then one day Mina shows a Michael a house that was given to her by her grandfather when he passed away. she eventually plans to fix up the house and rent it out, but in the meantime she lets owls stay up in the attic and live. When Michael sees all of the owls he is overwhelmed and scarred at the same time because they will attack if you get to close to their eggs. Since that Mina showed him her house 'not her Mother¿s house her house' he wanted to show Mina something cool, so he decided to show her the ghost like creature to her. The other reason he wanted to show her the creature was because he wanted to she if it was real. When they went to see the creature she did see it two. Then they both became interested in it. Then one day Michael's father decides to fix up the old garage. Michael tells Mina and she said that she would put the creature in her house with the owls. Then the next night Mina and Michael take the creature to her house. When they get there they smother him with questions. One question they asked is ¿What are you?¿ another is ¿What is your name?¿. He did not answer what he was but he did say to call him Skellig. Then they figure out what Skellig is and what he is meant to do. Once that they help out Skellig, he helps out Michael¿s sister and him and Mina stay friends forever. This book was extremely interesting because of all the weird and mysterious things that happen. For example they find creatures in weird places and he won¿t tell them anything about him. This book effected the way I look at premature babies because of what happened to Michael¿s sister. I just thought that it was horrible that they didn¿t think she would make it or that she had to stay in the hospital her whole baby years. That is how I feel about Skellig. This is why I like this book. I also recommend this book to almost any boy or girl.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2014


    J.k Rowling reccomend's this book so i read it and i love it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    i read this book when i was younger and it was verry good  good

    i read this book when i was younger and it was verry good  good story good characters and eventually lost the book at some point so i got for the nook and im glad i did id  recommend this book for anyone to read 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    I swear I saw a movie JUST LIKE THIS.

    I swear I saw a movie JUST LIKE THIS.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2013

    Awesome book

    This book was amazing ! My 11 year old daughter read it and loved it. She hates reading :( and i connot get her to read anything ! She saw this book at her friends house and her friend talked her into reading it ! My daughter was very annoyed that she was being forced to read and after she read it thanked her friend for forcing her. All that i am trying to say here is that this book is great for all ages and kids should be encouraged to read more ! READ THIS BOOK!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013

    I like it

    Ite is amazing

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    Very good

    I have taught elementary and middle school for about five years. I think of children's literature as having two major components, story and writing.

    The writing here is very good, as is the writing. This isn't a great tale but this is a delightful romp and more enjoyable with every page.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2013

    Soon after Michael's family moves to a new home, his sister is b

    Soon after Michael's family moves to a new home, his sister is born prematurely. While his parents are ferrying the newborn back and forth to the hospital, Michael deals with his stress by exploring their dilapidated garage. There, he finds a strange owl-like man. As Michael and the girl-next-door nurse the winged man back to health, he learns a lesson about love. This was a sweet little book. It was quite short, so there wasn't a lot of plot, but the characters and premise was quite adorable. This book would be appropriate for 7-9 year olds who enjoy reading magical realism. 

    Almond did a fantastic job of narrating his own book. He has an engaging reading voice and had all the rhythms and intonations flowing well.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    So good

    For some reason, i was reluctant to read this book, however i found it stunning. As a reader who nearly never cries, this book truely struck me in its ingenuity and heart felt message. This is an excellent read for all ages.

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  • Posted January 15, 2013

    This lovely, pitch-perfect book proves that middle grade fiction

    This lovely, pitch-perfect book proves that middle grade fiction can be spare and simple, yet still shine.

    Young Michael tries to cope with his infant sister's life threatening illness while living an ordinary boy's life. He plays soccer, visits with pals from school, and helps his father fixing up their new home and garden. Michael discovers a mysterious stranger in the dilapidated shed with odd manners. Is he a monster, angel, or something else?

    Michael befriends Mina, who is home schooled and has a penchant for William Blake's poetry and an obsession with flying creatures. They embark upon a quiet journey and a moving friendship. Together, they attempt to piece together the enigma of the man in the shed. The beauty of this quiet story lies in the friendship between Mina and Michael, and the author's insistence on leaving some things unanswered.

    I wish more books for this age group were so lyrical and calm. David Almond's book is a master work in restraint. I particularly like Michael's interactions with Mina and her mother. This friendship seems so true, and although I wish I could know more of these characters, the story is a perfect length and I was so satisfied with the resolution.

    This is a Printz Honor selection. Almond addresses weighty issues like life, death, and the inevitable unknowable in between on a level that is just right for this age group. I am so impressed with Almond's grasp of the complexities of Michael and Mina's world. He truly understands that although the world of a child is, on some level, simple-they are far from simplistic creatures. Instead, children have a rich inner emotional life and high levels of creativity, sensitivity, and wonder inside them. This book shows such respect for the characters and audience, and I would highly recommend this to any middle grade reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012


    Great book i'm reading his other book raven summer i totally recamend both books. Also i recamend empty miror, full tilt and over the river

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2012


    I think this book was so good i read it for a school book club and there was lots to discus about it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012


    Skellig was definitely a book worth reading. Even the opening sentence pulled me into the book immediately. The characters are strong, vivid, and interesting, especially Mina, Michael's friend, and of course Skellig, the creature Michael finds in his garage. Michael's newborn sister being so sick is also something that pulls you into the book because you want to find out what happens to her. I liked this book because of the ongoing mystery of the creature Skellig and who/what he is and what role he plays in Michael's life. I also liked that the author never really explained what Skellig was because then the mystery was free to linger on after you finished the book. This book was a combination of weird and hauntingly beautiful at the same time. In my opinion, that's one of the best combinations. Hats off to David Almond!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    Best book ever!

    This book is great! I read it in fourth grade but I'm going to read it again.

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  • Posted December 29, 2011

    Very Good Book

    Read this book for English and it was a really good read. Recommend everyone read it!

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  • Posted September 1, 2011

    you must read this book

    Skellig, written by David Almond is about a boy named Michael and his family that move to a new house that is not in good condition. His parents and he are anxious about his new baby sister named Joy who was born premature and has a chance that she might not live since she has a dysfunctional heart. Michael ends up going into the garage when he finds out there is a strange man and Michael thinks he might be homeless or a junkie. Michael ends up meeting a girl named Mina how is home schooled and she takes care of baby birds that live in her garden and she ends up teaching Michael their tiny sounds. The two of them move the man out of the garage because it was going to be demolished when they discover that the man has wings are old and dried and all folded. Michael asks the man about his arthritis and if there is a cure for it. Skellig (the man), Michael and Mina all share a mystical experience which they all fly and they are able to see ghostly wings sprouting from each other's shoulders I thought the book was good just that in some chapters it didn't really explain lots of things and when something interesting would happen the book would say much and it would just change to something new. The things that I like about the book were that it would get interesting and it would make me want to read it more and more. I also liked the author David Almond used all the five senses really good in the story. I enjoyed this book a lot because it would make me think about what was going to happen and I wouldn't want to put the book down. I give this book a 4/5 because it would interest me but it wouldn't explain a lot of the things that would happen in the story.

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