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on 1 March 2017
Wonderful characters and a wise compassionate tale. Thoroughly recommended.
Enjoyed the scope and language is beautiful too. A good read.
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on 27 May 2012
Alison for Big Book Little book

Mina is different. Not like other children her age. She tries to do as she is told in school but she can never quite manage it. The other children know she is different and mostly stay away. But Mina likes it like that, at least that is what she tells herself. Homeschooled and isolated, Mina starts a journal. One that talks of school, life and word. Lots of words. It also talks of a family who move in down the road and their son, a boy called Michael.

This is the prequel to `Skellig'. A book that I have yet to read, I almost read the book before I read `My Name is Mina' but in the end decided not to, a decision I'm still not sure about. I do know something about the storyline in `Skellig' and am now very much looking forward to reading. I have a strange feeling I may return to `My Name is Mina' to reread when I have finished it.

I was told my another school librarian that this was perhaps a book about a child, but would be enjoyed more by adults. Whilst I do see her point I would be inclined to disagree. It isn't for any child, I think it would take a more mature child to read and enjoy this, but they would get so much from it that it would be worth that bit more concentration we would need. Through Almond's words we are transported into this world of a child who doesn't quite fit. A child who sees the world in a very different way to the rest of us. Any child/ teenager will no doubt relate to parts of Mina's personality and may well come away with a greater understanding of other facets of her personality. As an adult working in education I found it fascinating. I liked and admired Mina and hated the idea of her being `caged' by the educational establishment, but at the same time understood how frustrating for the establishment to deal with Mina. A child who isn't doing as she is asked because she wants to be difficult, or because she is lazy, but because she sees the world in such a different way that she doesn't know how to do as she is asked. I hope that it will change the way I deal with young people, as I firmly believe that there is a little piece of Mina in all of us.

The journal format of the book, and parts of the way it is written meant that I sometimes found it difficult to follow. I had to go back and check which timeframe I was in sometimes, or even just read ahead and hope that it would eventually become clear. But this is part of the magic of the book, the darting around between time and subjects is part of what really helps you understand who Mina really is, someone who is different, not bad, not wrong, just different.

Verdict: Compelling reading for both children and adults who will come away having learnt a lot, maybe even about themselves.
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VINE VOICEon 20 December 2012
I read Skellig for the first time a few weeks ago; it's a strange and wonderful tale. Mina, arguably its most energetic character, is the voice of this equally accomplished prequel which is written as a first person journal. It's not necessary to have read Skellig to enjoy this novel, but the two books make a remarkable pair and there are many tiny crossovers which make it great fun to know them both.

This is such a vibrant book and Mina is such a vibrant creation. Of words she tells us: "They should fly like owls and flicker like bats and slip like cats. They should murmur and scream and dance and sing." And her words do, in the abandon with which they are committed to paper visually - this book really has fun with fonts and presentation - and with the unrestraint of childhood which does not guard or censor as an adult would.

Mina loves birds and words and William Blake and there is more than passing reference to angels, life and death. Her journal questions mightily; notions of God and education (she's being homeschooled and often conventional schooling is equated with a cage); madness and logic (Mina's teacher is exasperated by the fact that her English essay doesn't match the plan). Mina just doesn't fit in. She is precocious and vulnerable and bursting with life that is imaginative and corporeal.

Almond does a superb job in channelling Mina onto the page; there was only one small point in the novel when I felt I was listening to the author rather than his creation and it happens near the beginning when Mina muses that "this might be the only Heaven there can possibly be, this world we live in now, but we haven't quite realised it yet." This precedes a Romantic outpouring of the beauty of the natural world consistent with Mina and yet a little too sophisticated. I am possibly being unfair, Mina's life experiences are considerable and she is informed enough to have come to these conclusions ... but I wasn't quite convinced.

This is the meanest niggle in a novel which thrilled me. After I read it, I felt rejuvenated. It is the kind of book I might wish to have read as a child in want of a kindred spirit, and as an adult it appeals very much to the child in me. I love this book because it offers up the world again as a thing of magic and mystery; it celebrates the vastness of life, the beauty of difference, the creativity of a child's imagination. My Name is Mina has the same enigmatic atmosphere as Skellig, and where they both sparkle is in making our ordinary world capable of hosting the extraordinary, so that anything seems possible.
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on 7 October 2011
The 2011 Guardian Children's Fiction prize shortlist includes My Name is Mina, by David Almond, a wonderful, poetic story depicting home education.
My Name is Mina is a rare books - beautifully written using language in an almost hypnotic way, quirky and with an instinctive understanding of unschooling/autonomous/informal education.
Written as Mina's diary, it reflects the main character's creativity and curiosity. Mina loves words - the sound of them, their flow and patterns, reflected in the wonderful use of words, fonts and space throughout the book. She has a uncompromising sense of wonder at the world around her - from the blackbird chicks in her tree, to the sheer immensity of the universe.
As a result Mina does not fit in at school. She is unwilling or unable to lose herself and her world of words and ideas in order to meet the requirements of school or fit in with the other children. So her mother takes her out of school to be home educated. The diary tells of her experiences leading up to leaving school, her coming to terms with the loss of her father and dealing with having been a square peg in a round hole, until eventually she comes to a place where she can reconnect with the world again.
The descriptions of the quiet moments of contemplation and the time spent round the kitchen table making and talking with her Mum are something that will strike a chord with many home educators.
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on 11 November 2010
My Name is Mina by David Almond

This novel is all about Mina, the girl who befriends Michael in one of David Almond's previous novels, Skellig. It is a prequel; written after another story, but giving parallel events leading up to Mina and Michael meeting at the start of Skellig.

Mina is a reflective and solitary child. She is labelled a misfit and is eventually home-schooled by her creative, loving and imaginative mother. Mina is a gifted writer but her style is not one appreciated by her teacher, Miss Scullery. There is an hilarious scene during last year's SATs writing test, `Write about a busy place'. Mina decides to write her entire piece, Glibbertysnark, as nonsense; the sort of Jabberwocky nonsense, that somehow makes sense. Her teacher becomes apoplectic and resorts to swearing, which despite being a children's book, is entirely appropriate in this context. The ensuing meeting between her teacher and the Headteacher results in her mother being summoned and Mina is removed for home-schooling. She spends one day in a special school, a moving and inspirational chapter of her journal, but she decides it is not for her and her education from thenceforth is one of freedom, exploration and creativity.

The underlying themes of this story are of loss, of her father, and self-discovery of herself. We see glimpses of the parallel Skellig story; of Michael moving next door; the mention of the garage central to that book; the start of Michael's baby sister's illness.

This book is written in a variety of fonts which reflect the tone of what is being written. It takes the form of Mina's journal and reads like an internal monologue of her thoughts, feelings, dreams and fears. There are echoes of Jack's style in Love that Dog by Sharon Creech; a child's observations and questions about both the wonders and absurdities of the world around them. Both children write poetry to express their thoughts.

In reality, it is probably a KS3 book, although superficially quite an easy read. However, there are many layers in this book which could provide a challenging read, and basis for Book Talk by a Gifted and Talented reading circle in Year 6.
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on 12 July 2013
Please David, can I come and live in your world? Oh look, I really can.
When I first met Mina in Skellig I was entranced, so much so that I read the whole box set in my daughter's bedroom. Imagine my delight when tasked to find a book in diary form to present to a reading group and I discovered Mina.
The book was a huge hit with reluctant reader's - they knew all about Mina's hurt when ridiculed by a teacher who couldn't grasp that Mina was never meant to be forced into a rules based classroom environment where her creativity was shackled by someone else's idea of what a story was.
I know Mina well - although I was too much of a conformist to live her life as a child, I am so making up for it as an adult.
Yet another life-affirming, heart-warming story from a complete master of the craft. Thank you David, for your gifts.
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on 18 March 2017
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In order to truly appreciate this book, you really need to read it with a copy of Skellig to hand. Skellig was written first, but tells the story of Mina and her friend Michael after the events in this book happen. They dovetail together perfectly, so you can flow from one book to the next and truly become immersed in Almond's beautifully realised world.

I think that David Almond is one of the most gifted living writers we have, and his books should be read by everyone. My Name is Mina takes its rightful place in his body of work and does nothing to diminish my opinion of Almond.

This book is written as if it were Mina's diary. In between stories and poems and ideas and Mina's philosophy it tells the story of the events that have shaped Mina's life up to this point. Her whole life is coloured by the loss of her father, and the book is an exercise in understanding and redemption. It deals with huge issues of life, death, belief, the nature of education, why we are here at all, and so many other things I haven't time to list them.

It does not do this in a heavy handed, didactic way. Almond inhabits the voice and thoughts of a young girl perfectly. You never get the sense that this is the work of a middle aged man pretending to be a girl. It is Mina coming over loud and clear, simple, yet profound.

This is a beautiful book, thoughtful and sad and wonderful and full of hope.
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on 3 May 2016
Fed up with my daughter being influenced by mediocre 'tweenager' sitcoms, i cancelled the Sky & decided to search for some inspirational books. This book was a god send. It inspired her in so many ways & now, a year later she still holds those interests dear. At 10 & a half she writes poetry & stories at home regularly & still studies Ornithology which the Character Mina was very much into. David Almond is an incredible writer & if you are looking to inspire your littles girls this is a great book!
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on 21 July 2012
This is an utterly wonder-full and delightfully imaginative book about quirkiness, loss and grief, growing up, self-expression and above all: the love of writing. So utterly mesmerizing: once you've started you won't be able to put it down. And if you had seen films like Bettlejuice or Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael you'll just have to picture the young Winona Ryder as Mina while reading it, just like I did.
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