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Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Name is Mina, written by David Almond. Hodder, Hachette. 2010. $20.99 ages 12 and up

""Maybe writing's like walking
as well," I say. "You set off writing
like you set off walking and you don't
really need to know where you're
going till you get there, and you don't
know what you'll pass along the way.
She smiles.
"So writing's like taking some words
for a walk, " she says. "

When my friend Linda offered to loan me her copy of My Name is Mina, I hesitated. I didn't want to keep it too long and my pile of TBRs is very tall and daunting. Then, I thought I'd just read the first few pages and all was lost; but the need to know more...and then more...about Mina. Some books demand your attention and love. This is David Almond, after all! And it's a prequel to Skellig! What wonder lies in its pages!

It is a book of stories, of Mina's thinking and of her hopes going forward. It will come as no surprise to anyone knowing David Almond's brilliant writing that all of these are written beautifully. There is great sadness, emerging self-worth, and courage in a world that doesn't always appreciate those who are different.
Mina is open and honest in sharing her deepest thoughts and concerns, and is a truly remarkable and unforgettable character.

She has plans for her journal...well, at least some sense of what she wants it to be:

"I keep on saying that I'll write a journal. So, I'll start right here, right now. I open the book and write the very first words: MY NAME IS MINA AND I LOVE THE NIGHT. Then what shall I write? I can't just write that this happened then this happened then this happened to boring infinitum. I’ll let my journal grow just like the mind does, just like a tree or a beast does, just like life does.”

Does she ever! I was totally captivated by Mina's sharing of her thoughts, her dreams, her stories and the lessons learned and taught. The journal becomes a living thing in her hands. All of this happens before she meets Michael, or Skelllig.
It is a book that positively proves David Almond to be an accomplished and imaginative writer, creating a flawed yet amazing young girl who demands our attention, and our admiration. She is comical, smart and full of ambition. When her mother asks what she's been up to, Mina tells her:

"Talking to an old lady with bad bones, dancing for Persephone, being in somebody else's dream, thinking about pee and sweat and spit, reading Where the Wild Things Are, and writing a thousand words of joy."

We could all take a lesson from Mina. There is not one page in the book that doesn't have some wondrous words to share with you. Since I can't do that, I suggest you get out there and beg, borrow or buy a copy for yourself. Your reading life will be better and your own life richer at knowing this achingly lovely young woman.

As she struggles to move forward to meet the new boy on the street (Michael), she uses her journal to give herself courage:

"Chicken! I'm frightened. Don't be frightened!

I try not to feel silly and forlorn. I write an extraordinary activity for myself, the most important of all extraordinary activities. I pin it up above my bed.


That about says it all!

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