Magical tale

Michael is distressed and does not have to go to school. He has just moved with his family to a new house and his baby sister is critically ill at the hospital. He makes friends with the girl next door, Mina, who is being home-schooled by her mother. He brings his homework to her house and she examines his books.

"Mina giggled. She flicked through the book. It was about a boy who tells magical tales that turn out to be true. 
'Yeah, looks good,' she said. 'But what´s the red sticker for?'
'It´s for confident readers,' I said. 'It´s to do with reading age.'
'And what if other readers want to read it?'
"Mina,' said her mum.
'And where would William Blake fit in?' said Mina. '"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/In the forests of the night". Is that for the best readers or the worst readers? Does that need a good reading age?'
I stared back at her. I didn´t know what to say. I wanted to get back over the wall and go home again. 
'And if it was for the worst readers would the best readers not bother with it because it would be too stupid for them?' she said.
'Mina,' said her mum. She was smiling gently at me. 'Take no notice,' she said. 'She´s a madam sometimes.'"

"Skellig", by David Almond is a children´s book. A prize-winning children´s book. It was so enthusiastically reviewed in the Guardian a few weeks back that I just had to read it, and to my great surprise we had it at the local library. The librarian said: "It´s astonishing, actually, how many kids want to read English books." And she seemed to think it was perfectly normal for a 43-year-old to ask for it.

And believe me, this book is not too stupid for anyone. On the contrary. It´s a small read, 170 pages, but a big story. A real tear-jerker at times. It is very cleverly written, it´s like the text itself is holding it´s breath until almost the last moment. Like Mikael and his parents and Mina are all holding their breaths for the baby, because while life goes on, with birdwatching and football and anatomy, eating chinese take-away, and a few other activities I do not want to give away, all of it somehow becomes part of the effort to keep the baby alive.

There is a second book, "My Name Is Mina". I must suggest my librarian gets it for me and other lucky readers.

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