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.
This 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.