Skellig | Study Guide

David Almond

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David Almond | Biography

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David Almond is an English author who was born on May 15, 1951 in the town of Newcastle upon Tyne. He grew up in Felling, a small mining town. His first book, a collection of short stories for adults called Sleepless Nights, was written in 1985. Skellig, published in 1998, is his first book for younger readers.

Childhood and Education

David Almond grew up in a town near the North Sea, playing football (much like soccer) and dreaming of becoming a writer one day. His childhood was generally happy, though at age seven his baby sister died and, later, he lost his father. These losses helped to inform his writing, of which he says, "Growing up ... involves coming to terms with a world in which reality and myth, truth and lies, turn about each other in a creative dance, as they always have and always will."

Almond went to school at the University of East Anglia and Newcastle Polytechnic to study English and American Literature. After working as a laborer, salesman, postman, porter, and then a teacher for five years, he took time off to live communally and focus on his writing. Then he returned to teaching, working as a special-needs teacher. He has also worked as a literary editor and adult literacy instructor.

Writing Career

It took Almond five years to write his first novel, for which he could not find a publisher. Next, he published two small books of adult short stories that received little attention, Sleepless Nights (1985) and its second volume, A Kind of Heaven (1997). It wasn't until the publication of Skellig, Almond's first work for children, that the writer was catapulted into the public awareness and reviewers began to see him as a serious literary author. His books are highly acclaimed, studied for their literary qualities, and often appear on national lists for school reading curriculum.

From 1998 onward Almond's work has been widely recognized. Skellig has been published in 40 languages and has sold over a million copies in the English language. The story has been adapted for the stage and radio, has been made into a movie, and is the basis for an opera.

Since Skellig's publication, Almond has written several more books for both children and adults. To name a few:

  • Counting Stars (2000)
  • Where Your Wings Were (2002)
  • The Fire-Eaters (2003)
  • My Name is Mina (2010)
  • The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean (2011)
  • The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas (2012)
  • Mouse Bird Snake Wolf (2013)
  • A Song for Ella Grey (2014)
  • The Tightrope Walkers (2014)
  • The Colour of the Sun (2018)

Today, Almond lives in Newcastle and has a daughter. He is a creative writing professor at Bath Spa University, and he continues to write. Says Almond of his work, "Every story that ... we write or read ... is ... a move against the destructive forces that want to stifle us."

Awards and Recognition

Skellig won several of the world's most prestigious awards for children's fiction, including the Carnegie Medal (1998), the 1998 Whitbread Children's Book Award (called the Costa Children's Book Award since 2006), and the Hans Christian Andersen Award (2010). In addition, the book won him an Arts Council Writers' Award earmarked for work on a new book, Kit's Wilderness (1999). Kit's Wilderness went on to win a Nestlé Smarties Book Prize.

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