Author: David Almond
Year: 1998
Genre: Children's fantasy

This is a dreamy, mystical story about a young man named Michael who is trying to deal with life crises that are bigger than he is: a new home, an unwell infant sister, and his parents' being distracted by all that, leaving him to work things out for himself. Plus, there's a man with wings living in the garage, suffering from arthritis, living on aspirin, Chinese takeout, and beer, and waiting to die.

It's a story about balancing the spiritual and the material, two tendencies that are symbolized by our young hero's friends. With his school buddies, Coot and Leakey, he stars at soccer and clowns around. His companion in his personal struggles, however, is his next-door neighbor Mina. She does not go to school, but is receiving an education at home that involves birding, sculpture, and William Blake. Michael stays at home for some time exploring an old abandoned house with Mina and meeting the mysterious Skellig in the middle of the night, while he builds the inner resources to deal with his life's problems. There's a difficult scene, drawing on the story's symbolism as well as the trials of friendship among 12-year-olds, in which Michael's school friends come to visit him at home, and he joins in their mockery of Mina. It's clear that Michael's place is in the world, but he hasn't truly come to terms with things until he can return to school, to be friends with Leakey and Coot, and also with Mina.

Names are of great importance in this story. Both Michael and Skellig come from the island Skellig Michael, and Michael is also the name of a winged angel. Mina is short for Wilhelmina, which echoes William Blake. Coot is simply a nutty character, while Leakey, a character who expresses skepticism about the evolution of human beings from the great apes, refers to the family of paleontologists. Perhaps most important, the baby sister is nameless throughout most of the story, and the family's act of naming her at the book's conclusion definitively recognizes her as one of the living.

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