The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean
|The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A beautiful allegory of the stages of bereavement, from grief to anger to resolution. The double story device allows children to explore threatening emotions without fear. Beautiful, meaningful, artistic and uplifting. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 80||Date: April 2008|
|Publisher: Walker Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Blue Baker has just lost his dad. Things aren't going so well for him in other areas too - with the sure cruelty of every bully, local ruffian Hopper has homed in on Blue's vulnerability and is picking on him remorselessly. His school counsellor, Mrs Molloy, is urging him to work through his grief by writing down his thoughts and feelings in a journal, but it's just not Blue's scene. It's embarrassing for starters, and for seconds, it doesn't make him feel better; it makes him feel worse. So instead, Blue starts to write a story. He imagines a wild, savage boy, living alone in the woods, fending for himself.
Blue writes and writes and writes. He gets so into his story that eventually the distinction between reality and imagination becomes blurred and Hopper the bully comes face to face with the savage.
This is Almond's second book for younger readers and it's a beautiful allegory of the stages of bereavement, from grief to anger to resolution. It has a kind and moral message about grief and time and healing and it is tremendously uplifting and hopeful. But it's also tinged with the Almond trademarks of danger and otherworldliness. Strong emotions can be frightening and The Savage doesn't duck this - it faces it head on with a wonderful depth of understanding. As Blue writes, he faces his fears about his father's death and gradually they are laid to rest.
Illustrated by celebrated artist and all-round new Englightenment man Dave McKean - known for his collaborations with Neil Gaiman, Blue's dark and turbulent subconscious comes to life in the green-washed wild boy of the woods - he's spare and lean and full of taut, tight tension. You can feel his menace. But in the text, Blue's family, his sister and his mother, provide the kind of safe and loving background that allow this grieving boy to work through his bereavement without burying it away to fester, unacknowledged. The strength of family ties are celebrated in this book - even when some of them are taken away. The story inside a story also gives young readers some distance from the worst of their fears; it's not too painful an exploration even for the littler of little ones.
It's all beautifully realised - as you'd expect from this magical author. And it comes highly recommended by Bookbag for all children, as soon as they are able to read alone.
My thanks to the nice people at Walker for sending this lovely book.
The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean is in the Top Ten Books With Gorgeous Illustrations.
The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean is in the Top Ten Children's Books About Weighty Subjects.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Savage by David Almond and Dave McKean at Amazon.com.
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