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Reviewed by:
  • The Savage
  • Karen Coats
Almond, David. The Savage. illus. by Dave McKean. Candlewick, 2008 [80p]. ISBN 978-0-7636-3932-7 $17.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5–8

When Blue’s dad dies, his school counselor encourages him to write about his feelings. Instead, Blue gives his grief form through a story about a savage boy who lives in the woods near his house. The savage is wild, cruel, and free, unlike Blue, who is like his friends, “tough on the outside, soft at the heart.” It’s the savage who can think what he likes about Hopper, the town bully whose taunts of Blue have escalated since Blue’s dad died, and it’s the savage who goes to Hopper’s house one night and beats him bloody. As Blue writes the story of the savage, he recovers in himself a boy who can be antic and playful for his mother, tender and protective of his little sister, and understanding of the fear and pain of a bully like Hopper as well as his own; as the killing rage of the savage softens somewhat to a show of strength that will keep Hopper in line, Blue integrates with the character he has created and works through his mourning process. Dave McKean’s fluid illustrations, ink with Photoshopped watercolor effects in green and blue, dominate the pages in a visual-heavy layout that’s distant kin to a graphic novel. The art effectively captures the roil of emotions through the form of the savage himself; his boyish frame alternately closes in on itself in a hunched bundle and extends to a wild and violent grace, and his broad face with its sensual lips and asymmetrical eyes stares forth in an anguish that is by turns furtive and confrontational, charting the rhythms of Blue’s own path through grief. Blue’s voice, both in the frame story and the tale of the savage (identified in a different font and Blue’s strained orthography), is compelling in its boyish frankness, though a tad knowing, a position that is explained at the end when we realize the story has been written in retrospect, [End Page 275] after he has sorted out what this strange blend of sadness, sweetness, and savagery has all been about.



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pp. 275-276
Launched on MUSE
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