A blank notebook sings its siren song to 9-year-old wordsmith Mina McKee in this mesmerizing prequel to British author Almond’s award-winning Skellig (1998).
Mina’s bold, uneven hand scrawls “My name is Mina and I love the night” in her first chapter “Moonlight, Wonder, Flies & Nonsense.” Rather than chronicling her life in England with her widowed mother “to boring infinitum,” she decides to let her words “murmur and scream and dance and sing.” The result is the portrait of a writer as a young girl. Mina wonders and wanders, giddily examining the nature of the mind, language, sadness, swearing, schools-as-cages, daftness, owls, death, God, verbs, pee, pneumatization, spaghetti pomodoro and modern art—all through essays, footnotes, poems, stories, dreams, creative writing assignments and the occasional “extraordinary fact,” such as that household dust is mostly made up of human skin. The pages can’t quite contain Mina’s mad joy for life’s wonders, not even with occasional blasts of giant black type and rashes of exclamation points. Readers who feel like outsiders may find a kindred spirit in the homeschooled, mostly friendless Mina, who has been called everything from a witch to “Miss Bonkers,” and fans of Skellig will enjoy discovering the moment when Michael moves in next door to Mina.
A fascinating, if breathless ramble through the cosmos. (Fiction. 10-14)