The Savage, David Almond and Dave McKean

Another book recommendation from Nymeth – since I just read Skellig, imagine how pleased I was to find that that same author wrote a book that Dave McKean illustrated.  Dave McKean used to be my favorite living artist, before I bought my sculpture and discovered Cetin Ates and his genius, so now Dave McKean is my second favorite living artist. I do not love his work less than I used to love it, I just love Cetin Ates’s work even more than that.

The Savage is about a young boy called Blue who recently lost his father.  A teacher at his school has told him to write about his feelings, but he has a hard time doing that.  Instead, he begins to write a story about a savage boy, who lives in the woods and feeds off animals that he catches and kills himself.  Blue is being tormented by a bully at school, so he writes the bully into his story, and the savage begins to learn the difference between good people (like Blue and his little sister, Jess) and bad people (like Hopper, the bully).  And then the savage comes to life in the real world.  And then things get better.

This was a short (too short!), lovely book about coming to terms with loss, and moving forward.  The narration of the story – the part that takes place in real life – was just words; the story bits about the savage were illustrated in blue shades, which was very dreamlike and also made such a great connection to Blue’s name.  I loved the transition of the savage from Blue’s imagination into real life – how the book makes that visual movement into plain text, so it’s clear to the reader how real it’s become.

What I’m thinking about: I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I really think it’s brilliant how the world is embracing graphic novels and illustrated books and all kinds of hybrids of words and pictures.  The Savage is just one of loads of examples of what can be done with meshing text and pictures. (Also Baltimore, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret.)  The possibilities are endless and wonderful. Especially when Dave McKean is illustrating.

You can’t see me, but I am making a heart shape with my fingers.  I am doing this because I ❤ Dave McKean.  Oh, and because I ❤ Nymeth for all the excellent books she recommends.  And, you know what, while I’m engaging in a love-fest, I just should say that I ❤ Google Reader for making my life so organized and tidy, and I ❤ all the lovely book bloggers on my blogroll (hm, which really needs to be updated).  A year and a half ago I remember feeling very sad because I didn’t know what to read next, and I didn’t have anyone to recommend books to me, and I was scrounging university course catalogues to find new books to read (a depressing activity, let me tell you), and then, and then, and then I discovered book blogs.

And I have never wanted for books to read from that day to this.

True story.

Skellig, David Almond

Skellig is about a boy called Michael, who finds an angel in his crappy old broken-down garage.  Or, to be more precise, in his crappy old broken-down garage, he finds a filthy, exhausted, starving, unfriendly man called Skellig with growths on his back that Michael suspects are wings (which proves to be the case).  Michael’s baby sister is very sick, and because he is very worried about her, and can’t help her, he focuses his energies on taking care of Skellig instead.  Mina, the strange, clever girl next door, helps him and teaches him about bones and William Blake (two useful things to know about).

I liked this book because there was a period of time during which some member of my family was always in the hospital.  Every time one member of the family got better enough to go home, someone else got sick.  We spent all this time fretting and crying and reading trashy magazines in ICU waiting rooms, operating waiting rooms, hospital bedrooms, bedrooms in rehab facilities – just all year, it felt like.  (I have a really enormous family, to be fair, scads of aunts and uncles; and counting the people my cousins married and the babies they’ve had, I have close to sixty cousins now.)  So Michael’s family life felt familiar, that thing of always saying how completely all right everything’s going to be, and doing the hospital visits, and the waiting for things to turn out just as all right as you’ve been saying all along they will turn out to be.

I also liked that Skellig is never called an angel.  The exact nature of what he is, is never certain to Michael or Mina – they are just fascinated and awed by him, and determined to do the right thing for him.  They aren’t looking for a reward, although it proves rewarding.  And the whole thing is more spiritual, than religious, which I also like.  I’ll have to check out the ITV film – this will be the first movie I have seen Tim Roth in since my deceitful friends talked me into watching Pulp Fiction by saying Tim Roth is in it even though they knew full well he was only in it for like ten minutes.  Pooh.

Other thoughts on Skellig:

an adventure in reading
Susan Hated Literature