David Almond FRSL (born 15 May 1951) is a British author who has written several novels for children and young adults from 1998, each one receiving critical acclaim.
He is one of thirty children's writers, and one of three from the U.K., to win the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, "the world's most prestigious prize in children's literature". For the 70th anniversary of the British Carnegie Medal in 2007, his debut novel Skellig (1998) was named one of the top ten Medal-winning works, selected by a panel to compose the ballot for a public election of the all-time favourite. It ranked third in the public vote from that shortlist.
Early life and education
Almond was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1951 and raised in neighbouring Felling. His father was an office manager in an engineering factory and his mother a shorthand typist. He was raised Catholic and had four sisters and one brother. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a writer and "wrote stories and stitched them into little books." He describes his childhood as one with "much joy" but also "much sadness," losing his younger sister and father at a young age.
He was educated at the University of East Anglia and Newcastle Polytechnic. After graduating, Almond worked as a teacher for five years; he then moved to an artists' commune in Norfolk and concentrated on his writing. He returned to Newcastle and worked as a part-time special needs teacher while editing the literary journal Panurge.
Almond published his first novel in 1985, Sleepless Nights. His second novel, A Kind of Heaven, appeared in 1987. He then wrote a series of stories which drew on his own childhood, and which would eventually be published as Counting Stars, published by Hodder in 2000. In the next seven years, four more novels by Almond made the Carnegie Medal shortlist of five to eight books. Since Skellig his novels, stories, and plays have also brought international success and widespread critical acclaim. They are Kit's Wilderness (1999), Heaven Eyes (2000), Secret Heart (2001), The Fire Eaters (2003), Clay (2005), Jackdaw Summer (2008), and My Name is Mina (2010), a prequel to Skellig. He collaborates with leading artists and illustrators, including Polly Dunbar (My Dad's a Birdman and The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon); Stephen Lambert (Kate, the Cat and the Moon; and Dave McKean (The Savage, Slog's Dad and the forthcoming Mouse Bird Snake Wolf). His plays include Wild Girl, Wild Boy, My Dad's a Birdman, Noah & the Fludd and the stage adaptations of Skellig and Heaven Eyes.
Almond's novel The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean (2011) was published in two editions: Adult (Penguin Viking); and Young Adult (Puffin). 2012 publications include The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas (illustrated by Oliver Jeffers). In 2013, Mouse Bird Snake Wolf (illustrated by Dave McKean) was published.
His works are highly philosophical and thus appeal to children and adults alike. Recurring themes throughout include the complex relationships between apparent opposites (such as life and death, reality and fiction, past and future); forms of education; growing up and adapting to change; the nature of the "self". He has been greatly influenal Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing, which biennially recognises the "lasting contribution" of one living author. (He had been one of five finalists in 2008.) The jury president, Ms Zohreh Ghaeni from Iran, observed that Almond "writes about children in crisis, while continuously giving hope to them", and cited in particular his first two novels, Skellig and Kit's Wilderness. She called "bibliotherapy" such as she attributed to Almond "a vital activity for all children around the world." When it named him a finalist months before, the international jury cited his "deeply philosophical novels that appeal to children and adults alike, and encourage readers by his use of magic realism". For his body of work Almond was also a British nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Award at the same time.
Almond's major awards include the Carnegie Medal (Skellig); two Whitbread Awards; the U.S. Michael L. Printz Award for young-adult books (Kit's Wilderness); the Smarties Prize, ages 9–11 years (The Fire-Eaters); the U.S. Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, Children's Fiction (The Fire-Eaters); the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize (A Song for Ella Grey); Le Prix Sorceress (France); the Katholischer Kinder-und Jugendbuchpreis (Germany); and a Silver Pencil and three Silver Kisses (Netherlands).
The Skellig prequel My Name is Mina (Hodder, 2010) was a finalist for three major annual awards: the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, the Carnegie Medal,
and the (German) Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis.
- Sleepless Nights (Cullercoats, Tyne and Wear: Iron Press, 1985), collection
- A Kind of Heaven (Iron Press, 1997), collection
- Skellig (Hodder Children's Books, 1998)
- Kit's Wilderness (Hodder, 1999)
- Counting Stars (Hodder, 2000), collection
- Heaven Eyes (Hodder, 2000)
- Secret Heart (Hodder, 2001)
- Where Your Wings Were (Hodder, March 2002), collection – World Book Day selection from Counting Stars, OCLC 48487565
- The Fire Eaters (Hodder, 2003)
- Clay (Hodder, 2005)
- My Dad's a Birdman, illus. Polly Dunbar (Walker Books, 2007)
- Jackdaw Summer (Hodder, 2008); US title, Raven Summer
- The Boy Who Climbed Into the Moon, illus. Dunbar (Walker, 2010)
- My Name is Mina (Hodder, 2010) – prequel to Skellig
- The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean (Penguin, 2011)
- The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas, illus. Oliver Jeffers (Walker, 2012)
- Mouse Bird Snake Wolf, illus. Dave McKean (Walker, 2013)
- A Song for Ella Grey (Hodder, 2014)
- The Tightrope Walkers (Penguin, 2014)
- Picture books and graphic novels
- Kate, the Cat and the Moon, illus. Stephen Lambert (2004)
- The Savage, illus. McKean (2008)
- Slog's Dad, illus. McKean (2009)
- Wild Girl, Wild Boy (2002)
- My Dad's a Birdman
- Noah & the Fludd
- Skellig (2002), adaptation of his novel
- Heaven Eyes (), adaptation of his novel
Almond now lives in Northumberland. He is married to Sara Jane, a ceramics maker, and has a daughter, Freya.