David Almond’s Skellig was published in 1998 and is considered one of the most significant works of children’s literature in the late 20th century.
Almond had already written short stories when what would be Skellig came to him. He told an interviewer, “It really just came as I was walking along the street one day. And as soon as I had the first glimmerings of it I knew there was something really powerful coming along. And at times it almost wrote itself. I just had to sit down in front of the computer and wait for the next scene to come on. I didn't know what it was about, I didn't know who they found in the garage: it just happened and I didn't plan it. It's filled with things I know: It's set in my house and set in my garage so Michael's experience reflects my own experience but the story itself [just happened].”
Almond admitted not knowing very much about children’s books but realized what he was writing certainly was one. His agent told him right away that it was going to be big, which amused him, but this proved to be correct. Buzz started building six months before Hodder Books released the novel.
Critics almost universally praised the novel. The New York Times reviewer stated, “Skellig is a fine book; it reads like an adventure story, studded with matter-of-fact details of family life and school, only slightly exotic in their occasional Britishisms...And in its simple but poetic language, its tender refusal to package its mysteries neatly or offer explanations for what happens in either world, it goes beyond adventure story or family-with-a-problem story to become a story about worlds enlarging and the hope of scattering death.”
Skellig won the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year. Almond rewrote it as a play and it became a film starring Tim Roth as Skellig.
Almond explains, “It’s probably the most loved and the most discussed of my books. I receive many letters about it. Some people have told me the most personal and difficult things about themselves and their families after reading it. I am asked many questions about it. But there is much about the story that I don’t understand...I don’t have the answers. But isn’t that the way with many things in this mysterious world of ours?”