I love this book, and happily so did the bookclub.
Essentially Skellig is a fairy story, with much to make you believe in the power of wonder and friendship, in a real world that's full of sadness and pain. Don't let 'fairy story' mislead you, it is the realism that makes the magic so intense.
The adult characters are all living through painful conditions, which impact on the children at the centre of the story. They are growing up with the reality of loss, and issues of mortality. Through the discovery, nurture and rescue of Skellig, a disgusting man with wings, they learn that their own possibilities are enhanced through love and friendship.
The book features the extraordinary
'Mina', who we have to focus on because she is home educated. In some ways it could be argued that Mina reflects the world's negative view that home education can
be isolating, and that home educated kids are by default
'extraordinary' or weird. As a group we explored these ideas, but had to admit that ultimately Mina is a wonderful creation, and that many of the specific home ed. issues are a positive endorsement of autonomous learning. We all went on to really enjoy the prequel My name is Mina which is an unusual narrative; in some ways an indulgent but clever exploration of creativity and learning.
At the time we read Skellig back in 2010, I was still asking the teen readers to bring in something they had made, or written, or drawn, in response to the book. I would include something of my own to show them, and made some sketches of a man with wings, and a detailed one of the anatomy of a birds wing. I found a copy of Blake's poem The Angel in an untouched copy of his works on our bookshelves, and did some reading around his interest. Although this was a very self-conscious investigation, an attempt to model a process, it has become part of a more intuitive journey involving observation, bird anatomy, drawing, painting, plucking and eating, and serves to demonstrate something about creativity as I experience it.
It excites me to see how so many threads are pulling together in this way. At the same time my oldest son (Lol.) is developing his own interest in birds, and my youngest (Little Plum) in animal anatomy. There are collections of bones, and bird books growing around my own paintings and sketches, and currently when I begin to work, I listen to 'Birdgirl' by 'The Unthanks'.
Skellig plays its part in that tapestry, and that's what I love about books.