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Release back into the wild;Children's books

KIT'S WILDERNESS. By David Almond. Hodder Children's Books pound;4.99.

In his award-winning and justly acclaimed debut novel for children, Skellig, David Almond revealed a deep psychological understanding of how imagination, half-truths, wishes and profound feeling interact when children are under stress. He is a writer of subtle, page-turning and daring exactness, and he applies the same potent poetic and empathic skills in his equally moving new novel. I was reminded of Alan Garner's Stone Book Quartet.

Kit's grandfather, a retired miner, appears to hold the only links to the past in a community that is substantially redundant. He is one of the "true Stoneygate folk. Generation after generation of them, stretching back into the deep dark past. And aye, they've always been a queer crew."

He could be talking about himself. In fact he is talking about the Askews, and it is John Askew who makes the world almost more primitive, terrifying and prehistoric for Kit than it is possible to imagine: "His eyes looked deep into the past, deep into the pit." What appears to be a sinister game reveals to Kit the continuity and deepest roots of his community.

Janni Howker

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