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.”