Posts Tagged David Almond

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf



There are some brilliant stories of how things became – take Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, Ted Hughes’ How the Whale Became.

Mouse Bird Snake Wolf, a collaboration between author David Almond and illustrator Dave McKean, is in this tradition. The gods have made the world that Sue, Harry and Little Ben live in. But they’re lazy; they’re up there in the clouds and they’re sleepy. The children can see that there are holes in creation, and sometimes they can see what might go in those holes.

mouse Mouse-Bird-Snake-WolfAll goes relatively well until Harry and Wolf start having wolfish thoughts:


wolf 2

I love the metaphorical muscle of this book. We live in such a world. A lot is created, but there are spaces left for us to create. Much of what we create is benign, but we have the power to create what is fearsome, destructive.


We’ve been reading it with the Year 4 classes, and getting the kids to respond to it imaginatively, and the quality of their responses has been good to see. The book is deep enough, resonant enough with what we face outside fiction, for there to be plenty to discuss. The myth is both deep and lighthearted, and the kids entered into it from the first page, filling in the gaps that it’s creators have left.

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Dave McKean

So, I’ve just seen Mirrormask. What made me watch it was that I know Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman from kids’ books they’ve made.

There’s The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish:

There’s The Wolves in the Walls:

And there’s Crazy Hair:

– all three with Neil Gaiman. There aren’t many illustrations for Gaiman’s Coraline, but McKean did these too. He also did the relatively few pictures for The Graveyard Book, but that deserves a post of its own.

Then, with David Almond there’s The Savage. This book is kind of perfect…

There’s a wildness, a savagery, a violence, about Almond’s writing. And McKean’s art complements it perfectly.

It’s one of Almond’s shorter books and a great introduction to his writing. It’s got all the lean rawness, the harshness and the kindness of his writing, but it can be read by a nine year old.

“There was a wild kid living in Burgess Woods.”


(More pictures here.)

I’ve just discovered there’s another book by this partnership which I’ll have to investigate – Slog’s Dad.

+ addendum

Just read a great blog post about Slog’s Dad – good to find someone who is as enthusiastic about David Almond and Dave McKean’s work as I am – and a lot more articulate about it too!

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The Boy Who Climbed Into The Moon

I mentioned one of David Almond’s collaborations with Polly Dunbar before. Now I’ve read another, The Boy Who Climbed Into The Moon. Like My Dad’s A Birdman, it’s the kind of book that can be read by a 7 year-old but still enjoyed by a 12 year-old, or even, for that matter, an adult.

Paul lives in the basement, but decides one day to go to the top of his tower block.

He meets a lady wearing a red coat.


“I see your going to the top,” she said.

“Yes,” said Paul. “Floor 29. I’m going to touch the sky.”

As one reviewer says in the Guardian:

The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon is charming without being twee; quirky without being whimsical; and genuinely thought-provoking without being clever-clever. It celebrates words and ideas and makes one look anew at the world from an ever-so-slightly-different perspective. It’s a novel of small ideas which are, of course, so often the  biggest ideas of all. “Sausages are better than war”. (Who can argue with that, so long as there’s a vegetarian option?). Being shot during war is contagious, an epidemic of dying and death will follow. And then there’s Paul’s theory – the most central theory of all: that the moon is a hole in the sky. It’s a hole to be reached with a ladder (“£54.99 from B&Q”).



To me, it had the delightful impossibility of Alice in Wonderland or Le Petit Prince – but I like it more. It knows to tell a wild fantastical story peopled with quirky awkward individuals – but knows when to stop, keeping the simplicity of a fable. And it is a kind of fable.

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never better

There’s never been a better time for novels for kids.

I’ve recently read some that I’ve loved. The Fire Eaters by David Almond is one. A beautiful, atmospheric moment in life of Bobby Burns who lives in a small sea-side town, Keely Bay, at the time of the “Cuban crisis”, when it looks like the world is about to go up in smoke.

“Keely Bay. It’s a tiny corner of the world. It’s nothing to the universe. A tatty place, a coaly beach by a coaly sea. I know that we don’t matter. Maybe nothing matters. Whatever happens the stars will go on shining and the sun will go on shining and the world will go on spinning through the blackness and the emptiness. But it’s where I live and where the people I love live and where the things I love live.”

That sense of where I live and where the people I love live is there when Bobby goes into the sea to dredge coal with Ailsa’s family:

“We went to the sea. I rolled my jeans up past my knees but it was useless. In seconds I was soaked. Ailsa’s dad and brothers wore ancient chest-high-waders. She was bare-legged.

‘Howay, man,’ said Yak. ‘Get your bliddy keks off.’

So I stripped down to my pants, threw my jeans on to the sand and plunged forward into the waves. I had a battered metal sieve. I shoved it down into the sand beneath the sea, let the waves sluice through it so that the sand fell through, then I tipped the black remains on to the cart. Ailsa’s dad and brothers worked further out, with huge flat spades and massive sieves. Yak and Losh kept wading back with buckets full of coal.

‘Black gold!’ sang Losh. ‘Come and buy our beautiful black gold.'”

It makes me want to read more of his books:

The Savage The Boy Who Climbed into the MoonMy Dad's a Birdman

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I did read My Dad’s a Birdman to Sam a short while ago. Quirky, allowing quirkiness to be normal. Dad is crazy, he wants to fly like a bird. His daughter Lizzie helps him, and together they enter the Great Human Bird Competition…

Just-right illustrations from Polly Dunbar too.

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David Almond:

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.

I’ve read the beautiful Skellig a number of times now. Tonight we watched the film.

And now, I read, David Almond has published a prequel to Skellig:












You can download a sneak peak of My Name is Mina.
Extract: My Name Is Mina by David Almond

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