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*My Name is Mina* by David Almond - middle grades book review
Also by David Almond:

Raven Summer


Kate, the Cat & the Moon
My Name is Mina
by David Almond
Ages 10+ 304 pages Delacorte October 2011 Hardcover    

Mina has an exceptional gift for words. Compared to other children her age, she is more aware of her surroundings—the sights, sounds, smells, and her own emotions. This heightened awareness affects not only how she writes but also how she relates—or does not—relate to her peers.

Mina’s story moves forward chronologically but not directly. She is homeschooled; the confines and conventions of a traditional school do not work for Mina.

Her story is written as a journal in pockets of though—memories and stories which build on one another, each revealing different views of a very complex young girl. “One big, sad and horrible thing” has changed her life. Her father has died, but despite the sadness which never leaves her, she sees hope and happiness.

In contrast to her grief, she finds joy in everyday life. Her writing addresses a myriad of questions, muses on serious subjects—heaven, God, poetry, friends—and others which are seemingly inconsequential: a bird’s nest, dust, etc. Despite her overall positive outlook, the reader knows that deep down, Mina is sad and lonely.

Like many contemporary children’s journals, the book is written as if it is hand-printed, with dramatic font changes to emphasize important points. Mina intersperses her journal entries with “Extraordinary Activities” such as “Go to sleep. Sleep while you fly. Fly while you sleep.” Her writing reveals a process of healing and reaching out to others.

A prequel to Almond’s first novel for children, Skellig, My Name is Mina is a book for both children and adults. Almond raises a number of issues for discussion: – the wisdom of conventional schooling and standardized testing, the need for children to have their unique needs met and to find solutions to their own problems and conflicts. The writing, especially word choice and voice, is extraordinary, certainly a model for student journals.

Although children who are used to a linear plot may have difficulty comprehending the entire story, it is nevertheless an important addition to children’s literature. Recommended.
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