The Children's Book Compass

My Name is Mina and I Love the Night by David Almond.  (2011).  300 pages.   Delacorte Press.  Grades 5 and up.  Novel.

One of the lyrics from the song, “Maria” in the Sound of Music asks – “How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”  That’s what it is like to try to describe this latest David Almond book, My Name is Mina . . . .  I experienced a sense of wonder as I read this book.  Wonder at Almond’s originality and talent.  Wonder at the delightful character of the nine-year-old Mina who is full of a zest for life, learning and growing.  This book is a prequel to Almond’s book, Skellig.  Mina tells about herself before the events in Skellig.  Mina tells her ideas, thoughts, wondering as her story unfolds through her journal.  Mina uses different font sizes and forms to emphasize her thoughts in her journal.  She likes to play with words, “I keep on playing with words and my pen.  I look at an empty page and it’s like an empty sky waiting for a bird to fly across it.”    When she finds a word that thrills her she writes it in bold and large font – “Pneumatization!

She writes poems and sometimes ideas for “extraordinary activities.  She gets to “mooch about” because she is homeschooled.  She read and rereads favorite books. She loves three of my favorite picture books, which she calls “three of the extraordinariest books in the world: Where the Wild Things Are, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Dogger!  Lay on my bed and read them and looked at them just like I did when I was a little girl.  And danced the dance of the Wild Things with Max, and tiptoed into the bear’s cave with the family, and felt really sad with Dave about his lost toy, Dogger, and really happy with him when he found it again.  … I read them all again, a second time, and got all dreamy…”  Mina is a character who comes alive through her musings in her journal.  At the end she asks, “Does everybody feel this excitement, this astonishment, as they grow.  I close my eyes and stare into the universe inside myself.  I feel as if I’m poised on the threshold of something marvelous.”  When children finish this book they will want to go on to Skellig to continue the wonder and pleasure of reading.

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Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

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