four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
56-Jan-Feb-2012
By: 
David Almond
user_rating: 
0

A-My Name Is MinaMy Name Is Mina is a prequel to David Almond's first novel, the award-winning Skellig (1998). The 10th anniversary edition includes a short story about Mina, one of the three protagonists. This novel, however, stands alone as a reflection on a nine-year-old girl's attempt to overcome her isolation.

The Story: Mina--bright, imaginative, introspective, with an unequalled zest for life, but just a little sad--has an interest in language, literature (William Blake), and birds, and she finds her primary school stifling. After an embarrassing episode prompts her to leave, she is homeschooled by her nurturing, widowed mother. In a journal she finds, Mina records her discoveries and dreams, big and small, as she spends time guarding a blackbirds' nest. Though Skellig, from Almond's previous novel, does not appear in Mina's story, she observes from her garden the empty house and the family who comes to live there. The loss of her father looms large, but eventually Mina becomes more emotionally independent as she struggles to find her place in the world.
Delacorte. 309 pages. $15.99. ISBN: 9780385740739

Teen Reads 4.5 of 5 Stars
"While time moves forward, this unique novel is about what Mina thinks much more than what she does. ... Almond's unconventional latest is hard to describe, but it is astonishing in its emotional depth and breathtaking in its sense of wonder." Sarah Rachel Engelman

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Mina is an extraordinary person with an amazing imagination--the character from all books I've read that I'd most like to meet. ... My Name is Mina isn't like other books I enjoy, that have strong story lines, but I was absolutely hypnotised by it so that I almost felt I had become Mina." Lottie Longshanks

Observer (UK) (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"David Almond has been described as a magic realist, but everything in his novels happens in children's real lives in the north-east of England, past and present, or is a product of their imaginations and their response to the world. Any magic, therefore, is rooted in reality." Geraldine Brennan

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Wildly imaginative, fantastical, occasionally maddening but mostly engrossing, My Name Is Mina is a novel for dark-eyed girls who love nothing better than to scribble furiously in their journals, as Mina often does. The home-schooled and somewhat lonely Mina is a perceptive, fiercely curious, and defiant but sensitive girl who will surely prove a heroine for many." Pamela Paul

Independent (UK) 3 of 5 Stars
"Mina treads a delicate path between true sentiment and mawkish sentimentality. Not since Robert Browning's Pippa Passes, when his idealised heroine trills ‘God's in his heaven, all's right with the world,' has there been a junior female of quite such relentless positivity." Nicholas Tucker

Critical Summary

Mina serves as a companion to Michael and Skellig in Skellig; here, she has a story to herself. And what a story it is--a little slow on action, perhaps, for some readers, but uniquely rich in mood and introspection and an exciting, if sometimes heart-wrenching, journey into poetry, language, and mythology. Almond is a fabulous writer, and his insights into young girls who feel out of place in the world ring true. Only the Independent thought that the heroine was too saccharine to appeal to all readers; nonetheless, it admitted that many readers may find that the novel "speaks to them far more directly than do other contemporary stories." In the end, Mina's is a philosophical journey well worth taking.

Almond's First Novel

F Carnegie Medal

F Whitbread Children's Book of the Year Award

F Printz Honor

Skellig (1998): When 10-year-old Michael moves into a new house, his family is besieged by an ill baby. He finds some solace in his new friendship with his neighbor, Mina--and the decrepit man-owl-angel living in his garage.