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Kit's Wilderness

by David Almond

Published by U.S. edition: Delacorte Press, 2000
229 pages
ISBN: 0-385-32665-3

Ages 12 and older

British author David Almond has written a novel for older children and young teens that offers extraordinary complexity and richness of character, plot, setting and theme; stunning affirmation of the power of the arts; and eloquent insistence of the goodness in every heart. Thirteen-year-old Kit Watson's family has moved back to Stoneygate to care for his grandfather. Grandpa's memory and health are failing, and Kit and his family watch helplessly as the older man struggles to hold on to both the present and the past. John Askew, also 13, has lived in Stoneygate his entire life. Abused by his alcoholic father, John is surly and sometimes unfriendly, a dark, seemingly dangerous presence who leads a small group of kids in a game called "Death" in an old mining cave. Pit mining for coal was once the common livelihood in the town of Stoneygate. Both boys sense the ghosts of the many children who died over the years in the mines. Both boys are gifted artists; Kit as a writer, John with his drawing. And both boys' names are on a monument to children who were killed in a mining accident long ago: ancestors who died at the very age they are now. "You're like me," John warns Kit, and Kit wants to deny it. There is good in everyone, Kit's grandpa tells him. But Allie Keenan, a shining, spirited girl who will discover her dream to be an actor when she dazzles in the part of the evil sister in The Snow Queen, warns Kit that John Askew is "a caveman" and "a lout." The image of John as a caveman is richly fulfilled, as is so much imagery and symbolism in the novel. Challenged by a creative teacher to write a story set in the early days of human history, Kit imagines an early cave-dweller, a boy who, much like the now runaway John, fears his father, adores his baby sister, and yearns for his mother. Kits' characters take on the tangibility of real life, and soon the lines between fact and fiction, waking and dreaming, past and present are blurred. Kit realizes that what happens in his story–a story he is no longer merely imagining--somehow has the power to affect what happens to John. At the same time, he is finding the strength to come to terms with the inevitability of his grandpa's death. David Almond's narrative is a masterpiece, offering readers countless points of discussion and avenues to explore both literary elements and their own hearts and minds. Winner, CCBC 2001 Michael L. Printz Discussion CCBC categories: Fiction for Young Adults. (MS; May 15) ©2000 Cooperative Children's Book Center

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