Clearly, David Almond isn't resting on the laurels of being among the first to receive a Michael L. Printz Honor award. While Skellig continues receiving rave reviews, Almond perseveres and the results are stunning.
Tectonic plates, terminal moraines, fossils from deep within the earth David Almond sprinkles his newest novel, Kit's Wilderness, with references to the slow movements of the earth's continents and the million years leading to today and blends them into the story of Christopher Watson (known as Kit to his family and friends), a 13-year-old boy whose grandmother's death causes the family to move back to Stoneygate, a coal-mining town full of subterranean tunnels. In these tunnels, Kit is introduced to the game called Death, a game invented and lead by John Askew, a no-hoper from a family that goes back for generations in Stoneygate. John and Kit's grandfathers worked the mines together, and both of them died in the 1821 Stoneygate pit disaster, which killed over 100 young boys. The spirits of those lost boys and of one in particular called Silky inhabit the peripheral world of this small town. Because they are able to see these spirits, John and Kit see Death as more than just a game. They approach it as a pursuit for understanding what happens After.
In addition to these spirits and the town's discovery and destruction of the location of the game, Kit faces his grandfather's failing health and frequent periods of being off with the fairies. Despite his times of increasing dementia, Kit's surviving grandfather provides Kit a cache of stories and souvenirs gifts from a time traveler celebrating those things in the past that make the present possible. Kit uses these gifts to navigate through his wilderness. He writes a story about Lak, a prehistoric teen who sets off to rescue his infant sister; deepens his bond with Allie Keenan, a girl who dreams of fame as an actress and so, to help her develop the part of the Ice Queen, learns to make things disappear and lost things reappear; and sets out to find John, who, along with his wild dog Jax, disappeared after the discovery of the game. As Kit travels through his wilderness, he learns there is both light and dark in this world and each of us needs protection.
Jamie Whitfield is an author and writes from her homes in Tennessee and North Carolina. She has taught middle school students for nearly 20 years.