Kit's Wilderness

Kit's Wilderness

by David Almond

Paperback(Reprinted Edition)

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The Printz Award–winning classic gets a new look.

Written in haunting, lyrical prose, Kit’s Wilderness examines the bonds of family from one generation to the next, and explores how meaning and beauty can be revealed from the depths of darkness.

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 has both worked and died in the mines, Askew invites Kit to join him in playing a game called Death. As Kit’s grandfather tells him stories of the mine’s past and the history of the Watson family, Askew takes Kit into the mines, where the boys look to find the childhood ghosts of their long-gone ancestors.

A Michael L. Printz Award Winner
An ALA Notable Book
Publishers Weekly Best Book

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440416050
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 09/11/2001
Edition description: Reprinted Edition
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 188,464
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range: 12 - 14 Years

About 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.

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 he said 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.

Reading Group Guide

The questions that follow are intended to guide readers as they begin to analyze the larger emotional, sociological, and literary elements of this extraordinary novel.

1. When Kit and his friends play the game they call “Death,” they claim they can see the ghosts of children killed in the mine. Are the ghosts that Kit and his friends see real?

2. What do you think makes John Askew, Kit, and Kit’s grandfather able to see ghosts?

3. David Almond calls this book Kit's Wilderness. Why? What is Kit’s “wilderness”?

4. While studying the Ice Age in school, Kit and his classmates are asked to write a story about a young caveman called Lak. How is Kit's own life similar to the story he writes about Lak? How is it different?

5. What is “the pit”? What do you think it represents?

6. The author sets the story in winter. How do the physical landscape and season reflect the characters'’ emotional landscapes and states of mind?

7. Despite his fading memory, Kit’s grandfather is always able to recognize Allie. Why? What might she represent for him? What might she represent in the story?

8. When Kit’s grandfather gives him treasures from the mine–fossils from the ancient past–Kit slips the ammonite into his pocket and tells himself, “I’d keep it with me always now. A treasure from my grandfather. A gift from the deep, dark past.” What other “gifts” does his grandfather bestow upon Kit?

9. John Askew is perceived as a no-good troublemaker by the townspeople. Is he really as bad as everyone thinks he is? In what ways is he darker? In what ways is he lighter?

10. What is the role of storytelling in Kit's Wilderness? How is storytelling used throughout the novel? In what ways?

Customer Reviews

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Kit's Wilderness 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 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.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yet another Young Adult book that deals with very heavy subjects such as the love of family and friends, sacrifice, death, alcoholism, abuse, the need to fit in and conversely the importance of finding individuality and oneself amid peer pressure. This coming of age tale seen through the eyes of Christopher "Kit" Watson is compellingly beautiful. In order to care for Kit's aging, ailing grandfather, his family moves to the village of Stonegate, previously a coal mining town and scene of tragic deaths of young children who worked underground in the blackness years before.As Kit's beloved grandfather nears death, a mythological story unfolds and the lives of Kit and his two new classmates become entwined with the spirits of those who roam the mines and the memories of Kit's grandfather. While it is only 229 pages, this is not a breezy read , though I do recommend it.
alaskabookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though I liked it marginally less than 'Skellig', I love Almond's poetic language, and hopeful characters. Life is full of mystery, and the tensions between doing good and doing evil, both of which co-exist in each human. Almond captures this tension beautifully.
renee.nevils on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plot Summary: Kit and his family moved to a small mining town in Stoneygate, England to take care of his elderly grandfather. Kit loves to hear the suspenseful stories of former souls who roamed the wilderness from his grandfather. Kit makes friends with John Askew, an outcast. A group of friends go into the mines and play a game called Death, to scare themselves. Most of the gang pretends to see apparitions, but Kit really sees them and Askew believes him. They share a bond that no others do.Critique: This was just another YA book that dealt with family, death, alcoholism, the need to fit in, and the need to find oneself. I thought the blending of reality and fantasy was incredible, therefore putting me in Kit¿s shoes.Curriculum Uses : This novel could be used with many discussion topics, such as:1.Describe Askew. What type of a person is he: Does his family play an important role?2.John Askew is labeled a `bad child¿. What do you think about the label and do you think you¿ve ever been labeled.
4sarad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kit moved to Stoneygate with his family so they could help take care of his aging grandfather, a retired miner. Kit immediately finds friendship with a group of children, led by a boy named John Askew, who go into an abandoned mine to play the game of Death. They each have ancestors who also found death in the mines, but not as a game. As Kit¿s grandfather¿s health fails and John¿s home life worsens, Death seems to become more real. Kit finds that his dreams and stories come to life and he is surrounded by the ghosts of children who died in the mine long ago. Kit must stop John from joining the dead, though John wishes it.This is a very strong and engaging story. People of all ages will find depth and entertainment in its pages. Almond¿s writing is superb and it is easy to lose yourself in Kit¿s world. Kit¿s relationship with his grandfather is touching, and you really get a sense of appreciation for life from their story. John Askew brings darkness and death into Kit¿s world, but he is able to overcome it and bring John back into the light of life. It is truly a moving story, thick with meaning.
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:
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