Reviewed by Lori McAnnally
LORI MCANNALLY, a writer and lover of books, resides in Roanoke.
David Almond’s latest novel is the prequel to his award-winning “Skellig,” published over 10 years ago. “Skellig” centers on Michael, a boy struggling with worry as his family deals with a seriously ill newborn.
Michael’s new neighbor, Mina, becomes his close friend and confidante. As the title suggests, “My Name is Mina” is written from Mina’s point of view and is presented as her journal. In this way, this book is more of a character study than a true prequel to the earlier novel. It stands on its own.
Mina’s journal isn’t your standard, fill-in-the-blank diary, either. The pages are filled with poems, stories, writing exercises (with an invitation to the reader to do the same), and even a blank page or two. Through her observations of nature (often made while perched in a tree) and stream-of-consciousness style of writing, Mina reveals herself — her vulnerabilities, her longing to understand and fit into her world and her grief.
In “Skellig,” the reader learns that Mina’s father died when she was just a baby. In “My Name is Mina,” her father’s death is more recent, though she doesn’t say exactly when the death occurred.
She writes about problems at school, which include being alienated by schoolmates and frustrated by her teacher. Her mother decided to educate Mina at home, encouraging her daughter’s free spirit and philosophical nature, away from teachers who ridiculed and stifled her.
This book is written in a completely different style from “Skellig.” Once I forced myself to stop comparing the two novels, however, I began to enjoy it. I really like the writing prompts that are interspersed throughout the story.
Almond presents a novel that will encourage children to think about the natural world around them and may even get them to start writing about it.