Review Blog

Aug 21 2008

The savage by David Almond

cover image

Ill. by Dave McKean. Walker, 2008.
(Age 9+) Highly recommended. Once again David Almond has created an outstanding book which will challenge and provoke his readers. Blue Baker's dad has died and his school counsellor tells him to write down his thoughts and feelings. Instead he writes a strange and compelling story about a savage who lives under the ruined chapel in Burgess Wood. The savage can't talk, hunts rabbits, and has old kitchen knives as weapons. He pays a visit to Stokoe's farm and brandishes an axe as he rides a pig. In the dead of night he creeps into the bedroom of the bully Hopper and it is then that Blue has to come to grips with his inner savage.

The way Almond shows how Blue deals with grief is heartbreakingly honest. It examines through Blue's story how angry he is at his father's death and how he works through his anguish by writing about a savage, gradually coming to a stage where he comes to terms with his sorrow and can look with hope to the future.

Dave McKean's dark blue and green ink illustrations are a perfect collaboration with the story and depict an eerie savage complete with knife and a fox skin around his belt. His drawings of Blue and his little sister Jess show the tender side of Blue as he begins to heal.

This is a wonderful book that explores the boundary between fantasy and reality, the violence that children can harbour, love between family members and the healing power of writing.

Pat Pledger

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