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Kit's Wilderness
Cover of Kit's Wilderness
Kit's Wilderness
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The Printz Award–winning classic gets a new look.Written in haunting, lyrical prose, Kit's Wilderness examines the bonds of family from one generation to the next, and explores how meaning and...
The Printz Award–winning classic gets a new look.Written in haunting, lyrical prose, Kit's Wilderness examines the bonds of family from one generation to the next, and explores how meaning and...
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  • The Printz Award–winning classic gets a new look.
    Written in haunting, lyrical prose, Kit's Wilderness examines the bonds of family from one generation to the next, and explores how meaning and beauty can be revealed from the depths of darkness.
    The Watson family moves to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town, to care for Kit's recently widowed grandfather. When Kit meets John Askew, another boy whose family has both worked and died in the mines, Askew invites Kit to join him in playing a game called Death. As Kit's grandfather tells him stories of the mine's past and the history of the Watson family, Askew takes Kit into the mines, where the boys look to find the childhood ghosts of their long-gone ancestors.

    A Michael L. Printz Award Winner
    An ALA Notable Book
    A
    Publishers Weekly Best Book
    From the Paperback edition.
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    1

    In Stoneygate there was a wilderness. It was an empty space between the houses and the river, where the ancient pit, the mine, had been. That's where we played Askew's game, the game called Death. We used to gather at the school's gates after the bell had rung. We stood there whispering and giggling. After five minutes, Bobby Carr told us it was time and he led us through the wilderness to Askew's den, a deep hole dug into the earth with old doors slung across it as an entrance and a roof. The place was hidden from the school and from the houses of Stoneygate by the slope and by the tall grasses growing around it. The wild dog Jax waited for us there. When Jax began to growl, Askew drew one of the doors aside. He looked out at us, checked the faces, called us down.

    We stumbled one by one down the crumbling steps. We crouched against the walls. The floor was hard-packed clay. Candles burned in niches in the walls. There was a heap of bones in a corner. Askew told us they were human bones, discovered when he'd dug this place. There was a blackened ditch where a fire burned in winter. The den was lined with dried mud. Askew had carved pictures of us all, of animals, of the dogs and cats we owned, of the wild dog Jax, of imagined monsters and demons, of the gates of Heaven and the snapping jaws of Hell. He wrote into the walls the names of all of us who'd died in there. My friend Allie Keenan sat across the den from me. The blankness in her eyes said: You're on your own down here.

    Askew wore black jeans, black sneakers, a black T-shirt with "Megadeth" in white across it. He lit a cigarette and passed it round the ring. He passed around a jug of water that he said was special water, collected from a spring that had its source in the blocked-up tunnels of the ancient coal mine far below. He crouched at the center, sharpening his sheath knife on a stone. His dark hair tumbled across his eyes, his pale face flickered in the candlelight.

    "You have come into this ancient place to play the game called Death," he whispered.

    He laid the knife at the center on a square of glass. He eyed us all. We chewed our lips, held our breath, our hearts thudded. Sometimes a squeak of fear from someone, sometimes a stifled snigger.

    "Whose turn is it to die?" he whispered.

    He spun the knife.

    We chanted, "Death Death Death Death . . ."

    And then the knife stopped, pointing at the player.

    The player had to reach out, to take Askew's hand. Askew drew him from the fringes to the center.

    "There will be a death this day," said Askew.

    The player had to kneel before Askew, then crouch on all fours. He had to breathe deeply and slowly, then quickly and more quickly still. He had to lift his head and stare into Askew's eyes. Askew held the knife before his face.

    "Do you abandon life?" said Askew.

    "I abandon life."

    "Do you truly wish to die?"

    "I truly wish to die."

    Askew held his shoulder. He whispered gently into his ear, then with his thumb and index finger he closed the player's eyes and said, "This is Death."

    And the player fell to the floor, dead still, while the rest of us gathered in a ring around him.

    "Rest in peace," said Askew.

    "Rest in peace," said all of us.

    Then Askew slid the door aside and we climbed out into the light. Askew came out last. He slid the door back into place, leaving the dead one in the dark.

    We lay together in the long grass, in the sunlight, by the shining river.

    Askew crouched apart from us, smoking a cigarette, hunched over, sunk in his gloom.

    We waited for the dead one to come back.

    Sometimes the dead...

About the Author-

  • “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.”

    David Almond is the winner of the 2001 Michael L. Printz Award for Kit’s Wilderness, which has also been named best book of the year by School Library Journal, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly. He has been called "the foremost practitioner in children's literature of magical realism." (Booklist) His first book for young readers, Skellig, is a Printz Honor winner. David Almond lives with his family in Newcastle, England.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine It's hard to get a handle on this dark story of a boy and his adventures in an ancient coal pit where the kids play a game called "Death." Charles Keating gives the proceedings Shakespearean importance with his solemn reading. This seems apt, since this story is as hard to understand as some Shakespeare, even without the Elizabethan English. Even though Almond just won major honors in young adult fiction for his debut novel, SKELLIG, being lost in KIT'S WILDERNESS proves neither enjoyable nor enlightening. M.C. (c) AudioFile 2000, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 9, 2009
    Revisiting many of the themes from Skellig, Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism and allegory. He opens the novel with a triumphant scene, in which Kit Watson, the 13-year-old narrator, and his classmates, John Askew and Allie Keenan reemerge from "ancient darkness into a shining valley," as if to reassure readers throughout the course of the cryptic tale that the game of "Death," so central to the book, is indeed just a game. Nevertheless, he takes readers on a thrilling and spine-tingling ride. When Kit moves with his mother and father to the mining town of Stoneygate to keep company with his newly widowed grandfather, he feels drawn to John Askew who, like Kit, comes from a long line of coal miners. Askew presses Kit to take part in a game of "Death," for which the participants spin a knife to determine whose turn it is to "die." The chosen one then remains alone in the darkness of Askew's den, to join spirits with boys killed in a coal mine accident in 1821. Some regular players consider the game to be make-believe, but Kit senses something far more profound and dangerous, and the connection he forges with the ancient past also circuitously seals a deeper bond with Askew. Allie acts as a bridge between the two worlds, much as Mina was for Michael in Skellig. The ability that Askew, Kit and his grandpa possess to pass between two seductive worlds, here and beyond, in many ways expands on the landscape Almond created in Skellig. The intricacy and complexity of the book's darker themes make it a more challenging read than his previous novel for children, but the structure is as awe-inspiring as the ancient mining tunnels that run beneath Stoneygate. Ages 12-up.

  • Booklist, Starred "Almond . . . creates a heartbreakingly real world fused with magical realism . . . suffusing the multilayered plot with an otherworldly glow."
  • Publishers Weekly, Starred "Almond offers another tantalizing blend of human drama, surrealism and allegory."

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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