International Writers Magazine: Review
Summer by David Almond
Hodder Childrens Books
Summer is the story of a boy named Liam who lives in Northumberland.
Liam and his friend Max are lead by a jackdaw to the aid of a helpless
baby girl. The mystery of this baby girl makes big news
a while. As the nation loses interest in the story the girl is put
into foster care and Liam and his family go to visit her. Liam meets
two very interesting foster children living in the same house, with
big stories to tell
and all of a sudden, a large cloud of fate
looms over Liams head.
One thing kept
leaping to mind when I read this book: accessible. Almond ( the winner
of the Whitbread Children's Book Award and the Carnegie Medal) comes
an extraordinary new novel ... manages to create a convincing set of
characters and environment whilst using mostly very simple (but extremely
affective) Language. I believe this book transcends the child/adult
barrier with great skill. An important part of this transcendence are
the themes in which Almond explores. As soon as I finished reading this
book I wanted to pitch up a tent in my back garden and sleep rough.
A wonderful sense of nostalgia is achieved for all those adults amongst
us. As for the children that read this, most of them are still living
it now. Throughout the book our protagonist Liam is wild, daring and
everything a child should be. He brings us all closer to that exciting
childhood we once had. Liams curiosity and wild nature finds him following
a jackdaw whereupon he discovers an abandoned baby. Whilst the baby
appears to play no major role, Liams decision to take this baby back
to his father is the catalyst for the rest of his summer. Once the baby
girl is successfully sent to a foster home, Liam and his parents go
to visit her. On visiting the babys new home, Liam meets a couple
of characters that will completely change his summer.
A wild but troubled girl named Crystal questions certain things in her
life that Liam hadnt really thought about yet. With a few of the
realizations that Liam comes to, you see some of his childhood slip
away right in front of your eyes. A childhood not filled solely with
amazing adventures out in the wild. But a childhood that you feel has
an undertone of sadness to it. Liams father is a famous writer who is
always writing a new story and has very little to do with his son. Almost
everyone can sympathize with feeling unloved at some point by their
parents; adults and children alike have this unfortunate grievance.
Another important character to this story is Oliver; he is the second
of the two foster children Liam meets. Oliver is from Liberia, a country
ravaged by war. Olivers entire family were killed but he was spared
and forced to join the soldiers at the age of ten. I raise the important
point of Olivers background because it coincides with a very vital theme
in this book
War is suggested consistently throughout this book, whether it is world
war three or a bloody fight between friends. It is suggested that war
is necessary, horrid and yet somehow beautiful. In this book war is
celebrated as an art but also condemned by the masses. Perhaps this
portrays Almond's own views, or perhaps he is simply trying to get his
readers to think. As a reviewer I dare not plunge into the inner psyche
of Almond but I will congratulate him on making these conflicting views
on war work in harmony.
In conclusion, Jackdaw
Summer is a very successfully written book with many themes that
adults and children alike can relate to. More importantly it is about
that summer in everyones life that changes you. That makes you into
the adult you will become.
michael phillip webb November 2008
Michael is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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