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savage by david almond, illustrated by dave mckean

April 4, 2009

out3journey

The Once Upon a Time Challenge from Stainless Steel Droppings has pushed me into unchartered waters again.  Thus I have read a young adult book titled Savage, by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean.

How I came about reading this particular book is a sad story.  Harry Schwartz Bookshop has been a Milwaukee meeting place for readers since 1927.  Alas, changes in the book industry and the reading habits of local folks have forced Schwartz to close their doors.  This past week was the final, final week, with everything in the store on sale for 40% off.  This, at least, was a book lovers dream come true!  My son and I both had gift cards languishing in our wallets, so we teamed up and headed out on a rainy evening.  He went straight to the travel section, and I made a beeline for the young adult fantasy section.  There was still a fair amount to choose from, even though many of the shelves I passed on the way were completely empty.

I picked up a couple books, and put them back, and then I picked up the slim volume called Savage.  When I saw the name of Dave McKean on the cover, the book was sold.  McKean has done artwork for books by Neil Gaiman, and I particularly loved the cover he did for Alan Campbell’s Lye Street, which I reviewed last year.

I was not familiar with David Almond, but I have found that he is well known for his prize-winning book Skellig and is “widely regarded as one of the most exciting and innovative children’s authors writing today. “   After reading Savage, I believe it.

savageThis book is a story within a story.  Blue’s father has died, and he is living with his mom and little sister, Jess.  Blue is having a hard time adjusting, and has been assigned time with the school counselor.  She asks him to write about his feelings, which “seems stupid and made me feel worse.”  But on the side, he finds an old note book and the story of the savage is scribbled and drawn.  Eventually, reality and the story of the young wild boy merge, and Blue has a hard time telling reality from the fantasy of his story.

There are no wizards or fairies in this fantasy.  It is a fantasy about the deepest, darkest, soul of a boy working through his grief.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2009 10:10 pm

    I’ve read Skellig with my son for his school – David Almond is a fine and disconcerting author with particular insight into the way that negativity in children often turns into something palpable, a ghost, a vision, a place, a monster. This book sounds wonderful, too. I’m so sorry to hear about the bookshop closing down, though. I’m buying a book a week from a bookstore at the moment in a small effort to help the situation along. I can’t bear to think of losing yet more bookstores and publishers to the general decline.

    The “general decline” is rather scary – science fiction like… There are very, very, few independent booksellers left in town. Schwartz Bookshops had three locations, and fortunately, two of them were purchased by employees. I sure hope they survive.
    I’ve not read Skellig, but I do intend to – thanks for the recommendation.

  2. April 5, 2009 9:40 pm

    Oh yes – I do enjoy David Almond. Sometimes, disturbing as Litlove says. I’ve read Clay and The Fire Eaters. And Skellig is magical. I will look out for this one, too.

    Thanks for dropping in and commenting, Masha. I do intend to find Skellig. I am surprised I have not come across it before.

  3. April 7, 2009 10:01 pm

    I had forgotten about this book. I remember reading about it before it came out and perhaps someone read and reviewed it before, just don’t remember. I enjoy McKean’s artwork so much.

    I’m so sad to hear about your bookstore. I hate seeing places like this close. A bookstore is so much more than simply a retail outlet, they are places where lives are changed and adventures are begun. I hate seeing them close down.

    It is amazing how the scene has changed. There used to be at least four mystery book stores in Milwaukee. Now there is one, and I am amazed that it’s hanging in there!

    Schwartz bookstores were pretty special. Coffee, of course, and a great sales staff. One of the stores had a life size diorama of Goodnight Moon that my kids really loved when they were little. Oh well, life is about change, I guess.

  4. April 10, 2009 9:47 pm

    Alas, we have lost all our most wonderful independent bookstores here. My favourite now is a used bookstore. I can still find some treasures there, and the atmosphere is better than the mega, faceless, sterile stores, even with their cakes and espressos!

    Can you tell I miss the old stores???
    Wishing you a most Happy Easter!!

    A used bookstore is fun, too. There is one in downtown Milwaukee that has been there FOREVER. It’s in a tottering old four story building downtown, and you have to wind your way through stacks and shelves and piles of books. The incredibly eccentric owner knows where everything is, and decides on the price by the looks of ye when you step up to his cash drawer. Lots of treasures there!
    Happy Easter to you and Edward 🙂

  5. April 10, 2009 10:34 pm

    This sounds fascinating. Sometimes those unexpected finds are the best! I’m just sad you had to discover is because a beloved independent book store closed.

    My friend Jane Rosemont is posting lots of photos and commentary from her recent trip to Bali at janerosemont.blogspot.com — I know you’re planning to visit, so stop by her blog!

    Cheers and happy Easter!
    thanks for the connection to Jane Rosemont, Jeanie. I have been hanging out at her blog. What great photos!!
    Happy Easter to you, too :]

  6. April 11, 2009 3:40 am

    Sad about the bookstore. Ugh. in fact, that’s awful news. But glad you found a special book. I really do have to open up my reading “doors.” And then, take a “reading” vacation. Thanks for this.

    Ooooooo – a reading vacation sounds so good! I have the next week off of work, but it has unfortunately begun filling up with all kinds of other stuff. I think I may be able to fit in a fun book or two, however!

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