Kit’s Wilderness

I just finished reading ‘Kit’s Wilderness’ by David Almond and felt inspired to do a couple of pictures. Set in the same wild and magical Northeast England that Almond has made his own across his books (he grew up in Felling near Newcastle), it tells of Kit, whose family returns to the town of Stoneygate to care for his elderly grandpa. There Kit falls in with a new group of friends, including the vibrant Allie and the brooding, tortured Askew, who introduces him to a sinister new game called ‘Death.’ As his grandpa’s continuing stories mix history with fact and fiction Kit finds his own experiences blending with the past and finds himself the unwitting pawn in a terrifying struggle between darkness and light.

As ever with Almond, it’s all lyrically written and hugely atmospheric. He always is particularly good at evoking the way in which reality and magic are blurred together during childhood: seemingly mundane events can take on huge symbolic significance and form the starting points for bewildering and exciting digressions into strange and unfamiliar worlds. When Almond describes the children leaving their homes to play on the wilderness at the back of their houses he also describes a journey away from rational civilisation and into an untamed, magical and sometimes terrifying childhood world. No one evokes that journey quite like him.

Anyway, it felt like the kind of book that would really benefit from illustrations – something semi-abstract in sharply contrasting black and white to reflect the epic life/death battle at the heart of the story. I also had in mind Almond’s recent collaborations with Dave McKean, ‘The Savage’ and ‘Slog’s Dad,’ both of which demonstrate a brilliant combination of words and pictures.

“It was a chilly evening and rain was pouring down on to the wilderness.”

“If ever a lamp went out or a pitman’s bait was pinched, that’s Silky’s work, we’d say. Little mischief, little Silky. A glimpse, and then he’s gone.”

9 thoughts on “Kit’s Wilderness”

  1. Wow! More please! Loved that book – have you read Heaven Eyes? There’s rough water, runaway children, a raft and a mysterious girl with flaps between her fingers. ALL David Almond’s novels should be reissued with illustrations a la A Monster Calls!

    1. I don’t know Heaven Eyes, Candy. One for the ‘to be read’ list. I do know A Monster Calls though – you’re right, those illustrations would work a treat for David Almond.

  2. Great post, Sam. Inspires me to read the book (once I’ve finished my review reading for demention, which is becoming endless!) I’ve loved Dave McKean since reading Violent Cases and Arkham Asylum, and your illustrations have a similar starkness that works really well. Nice one!

    1. Thanks Julienne, I’d definitely recommend ‘The Savage’ if you’re a McKean fan. I’m guessing you’ll know ‘The Wolves in the Walls’ already? And there’s also ‘Mr Punch,’ another collaboration with Neil Gaiman that is just brilliant. Good luck with your review reading!

  3. Fabulous, Sam. David Almond is a wonderful writer ( and a very nice chap too BTW) I love retrofitted illustrations to older books – it’s the future for printed books in my opinion. Please do some more – and maybe contact David?

    1. Front covers are reissued fairly regularly so why not do it for interior illustrations? I love seeing the different spin illustrators put on a story. Interesting idea Philippa!

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