BOOK REVIEWS

Half a Creature from the Sea: A Life in Stories Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-12-10 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings
ISBN:0763678775
LANGUAGE:English

"Eight short stories drawn from the childhood of master storyteller David Almond provide much insight into some of his other writings. Clearly, a sense of place and time permeates these tales, some of them funny and some of them rather frightening. Set in the small town of Felling-on-Tyne where he grew up, the stories are, by turns touching, and filled with suspense. My personal favorites are "Harry Miller's Run," which describes a race viewed through the lens of an elderly character near the end of his days, and "Klaus Vogel and the Bad Lads," in which the narrator finally learns to stand up against bullying behavior. I also loved how the author shares his thoughts and inspiration for each of the pieces, sometimes citing lines of poetry or experiences that gave birth to the writing, and also describing how certain pieces have been revised several times with future revision possible. The small mixed media illustrations support the stories nicely. " said.

"I think the author intended for certain revelations in the stories to be warm and beautiful but to me many of them were eerie and weird. like I couldn't get past what was initially speculated by the narrator davie to be happening, so that even when it was revealed that things were not what they seemed, I still carried the creepy feeling away that things were exactly as they were initially portrayed to be. the monster to me was really a monster, a demon. the poltergeist was a scary poltergeist. the man in the garden, to me was a hobo pedophile.
the only story that was warm and fuzzy to me was harry miller's run. I truly enjoyed that story. I felt the hot sun and the salty sea and tasted the cold ice cream. if only all the stories in this book were like that, this could have easily been a five star little gem but unfortunately the other stories didn't sit well with me. they left me feeling uneasy somehow and I didn't care for them.
I'll probably be donating this to my local library as I have no desire to keep it.
" said.

"“Can this be real?” That’s what we’re left wondering as each new story in Half a Creature from the Sea teasingly unfolds. British author Almond blurs the lines between the supernatural and reality with aplomb in his latest collection of short fiction. Satisfyingly, each story is preceded by an autobiographical foreword, as Almond weaves elements of his own provincial childhood into each tale, accompanied by Taylor’s stylish gray-scale illustrations, which clatter around the edges of the pages. This only heightens the allure of the fantastical circumstances his characters find themselves in: a father descends from heaven to console his grieving son. God—or an imposter?—visits a young girl’s garden and grants wishes that seem implausible. A boy summons a poltergeist he only half fears. Almond’s dialogue crackles with Briticisms and youthful English dialect. His scenes center on unsuspecting young adults making sense of mystical situations they unwittingly encounter. With each story, Almond cements his prolific, beloved place among writers of magic realism for today’s young readers.— Lexi Walters Wright, First published September 15, 2015 (Booklist).
" said.

"In a series of short stories, master author Almond takes readers back to the magical times of his childhood as well as our own. The stories are all set in the places that Almond grew up in. The stories range in topic, but each one offers glimpses of wonder and deep understanding. They also all speak to the power of stories in our lives, whether they are to reveal or to hide the truth. The eight stories in the book give us characters living normal yet extraordinary lives. There is the girl rejected by school and society who finds it easy to believe she comes from somewhere far away. There is the home with a monster hidden inside it where you can hear its noises if you put your ear on the wall outside. There are the boys who run miles and miles to swim in the sea on one perfect summer day. There are poltergeists mixed with soccer games, bullies mixed with heroes. It is a beautiful collection of stories which put together make up a glimpse of a world past that still is relevant in our modern one.

Almond’s writing is exceptional. This shorter form allows him to create little worlds of magic, astonishing moments of clarity, decisions that reverberate in the community. He invites us into his home, revealing in paragraphs before each story the way that the story ties to his childhood or to a place that is dear to him. It gives us a look at his process, a way to understand the fictionalizing of memories and the beauty of turning everyday into amazement. The fantasy elements are there, dancing under the cloak of faith but there still, explained but also not completely fictional. There is a delicacy to this writing and yet a robustness to the setting that work particularly well together.

One of the best short story collections I have read in a very long time, this collection is exceptional. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
" said.

"Author - David Almond

Genres - Mystery, fiction, anthology, friendship

Age Group Recommendation - 9+

Cover - In my opinion, the cover of this short story collection is very interesting because there are quite random things thrown on it that you wouldn't usually expect to see together, such as a giraffe, a house and a gramophone floating in the sea.
Some readers may think that each illustration represents a story; I disagree. Some of them might do, but I don't think all of them fit in and the office drawers on the cover don't seem to appear in the book.
Anyway, the cover is definitely thought-provoking an maybe the mystery channelled through the randomness draws people in.

My Review - I believe that Half a Creature from the Sea is a good-quality book that delves into the depths of different lives with one connection - they are all linked to Felling, Almond's hometown (and most of the main characters are called Davie!). The stories all seem to end with cliffhangers and illustrations. Drawings also appear at the beginning of stories, too.
I liked the fact that the author described the new story just before it, on top of an introduction at the start of the whole book. However, what puzzled me was that he used inverted commas around what he wrote to the reader. This was my first David Almond book and I don't know much about him. These marks made me question whether he was alive or not. I calculated his age and he would be around 65-70 years old. Afterwards, I found out that, actually, he was in fact still alive. Nevertheless, I still think that this was an unusual structural feature, though I do agree with anyone that says it separated the actual piece from the pre-word.
Despite this, I enjoyed Half a Creature from the Sea and was gripped by the anthology, although I found it a bit hard to get into. Therefore, I rate this book 6.5/10.
" said.

" Read the first two stories but could not get into the style. " said.

"Review originally posted 16 June 2015 on Falling Letters. I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley.

I last read a short story collection years ago, I suppose. I only read such collections when an author I adore publishes one. Why did I pick up Half a Creature from the Sea? This sentence from the NetGalley description sold it for me: "Set in the northern English Tyneside country of the author’s childhood, these eight short stories by the incomparable David Almond evoke gritty realities and ineffable longings, experiences both ordinary and magical." Seaside English setting + childhood memories + touches of magic = I want to try it! This book publishes in US in the fall, but since it's already available in the UK, I'm publishing my review now.

The collection contains only eight stories. This also appealed to me - hopefully there would be few mediocre stories to wade through in hopes of running into the goods ones, as I hear tends to be the case with story collections. GoodReads says it's 240 pages, but in Kindle-speak it's only 'Loc 1522'. Eight stories was a perfect number for me. I breezed through the collection and didn't find any story lesser than its companion. Each story has it own charm.

Almond's own childhood heavily influenced these stories. A few pages of explanation prefaces each story, describing the story's basis in Almond's reality and sometimes how it became fictionalized. This telling doesn't spoil the stories. Almond's prose still flows clearly in these passages. Understanding the truths in the stories made them all the more vivid for me. I appreciated a bit where he mentions having rewritten one story many times, and will probably continuing doing so in the future. That's not something you can do easily with novels.

"That's the strange thing about writing stories - you put in something imaginary to make the whole thing seem more real." (21%)
Another aspect of the stories I really enjoyed was the role of the Catholic church in the lives of the young boys. I haven't read a lot of children's literature where the children are so engaged in a real world religion. In that area, at that time, Catholicism was just a natural, integral part of their lives. I grew up in a church, but my experience differed greatly from the ones in the stories. I liked reading about how the church influenced the boy's lives, and how their opinions changed and developed.
"Our duties to retain the faith and to please and obey God were much more important than our duty to love and to care for our fellow creatures." (32%)
Although part of the reason I picked up this book was the mention of magical experiences, these play less of a role in the stories than I expected. Often the 'magic' is a minor part, a background note to the characters themselves. I didn't even mind, though, because the stories are sweet enough without fantasy. The prose, too, is lovely. Almond writes the perspective of a young child well.

Perhaps by now you're wondering the target age of this book. It appears to be marketed as middle-grade. Candlewick's website says 7 to 9 years old (which I actually think could be too young) and the protagonists are all 10- or 11-years-old, but to me the atmosphere moves the stories beyond that level. Penguin RandomHouse's website says young adult and Kirkus Review suggests 13-18, but certainly 14 is 'too old'. Maybe this is one of those books you can enjoy as child, forgot about as a teen, and return to to find something new when you're older. The Ocean at the End of the Lane gave me a similar vibe, albeit with a a lot more darkness. I don't think 10-year-old me would have liked Half a Creature from the Sea so much, because A) I never read short stories (are they common in middle grade nowadays?) and B) there wasn't a lot of fantasy, just touches here and there. I didn't come to appreciate slice-of-life until my late teens. Regardless, I think this is a great book. Read it yourself, then pass it on to a young thoughtful reader or one who likes all things British.

The Bottom Line: Perhaps you're not one much for short stories, but the description appeals to you. Give it a go, and maybe you'll be wondering, like I am, why you don't read more short stories!" said.

" The thing with David Almond is there always seems to be an underlying message that I can never seem to grasp...so to me it's just alot if veryy random stories. " said.

December 2018 New Book:

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