Skellig by David Almond
Michael has just moved to a new neighborhood, his baby sister is seriously ill and he is often feeling neglected. He discovers a mysterious being in his dusty, junk-filled garage…some kind of bird-beast or possibly an angel. Michael sets out to determine who or what Skellig is and to improve the creature’s existence in the tumble-down garage.
It is difficult to find books with unschooled characters. Although Michael, the main character of Skellig, goes to public school, he meets a friend, Mina, in his new neighborhood and she is a very positively written unschooled character. When Michael questions Mina about school, he gets the following reply:
“‘My mother educates me,’ she said. ‘We believe that schools inhibit the natural curiosity, creativity, and intelligence of children. The mind needs to be opened out into the world, not shuttered down inside a gloomy classroom.'”
Mina and Michael share secrets and forge a friendship as they get to know Skellig and discover connections Skellig might have to Michael’s troubled family. This is a somewhat eerie, but poetically written book that prompts the reader to ponder Skellig’s existence for days after reading about him.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
Not many books written for children make it to the New York Times bestseller list, but this one did, and deservedly so. I read it aloud to my 5 year old daughter and 7 year old son, and thoroughly enjoyed it myself. So engrossed were we, that we tore through all 300 plus pages in only a couple of sittings.
Young Harry Potter, raised by his miserable aunt and uncle, and tormented by his bullying cousin, discovers to his amazement that he is a wizard, quite famous in the wizard world by virtue of his babyhood encounter with the evil wizard, Voldemort. Thus begins his entry into wizard school and his introduction to the magic and power he must struggle to understand.
It’s a wildly imaginative fantasy world of mystery, adventure and introspection that had all of us listening on the edges of our seats. But be prepared — if you read this book, you’re likely to be making another trip to the bookstore for Rowling’s second book that’s just out, _Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets_. A third Harry Potter novel is due to be published soon in the UK.