Summary and book reviews of Raven Summer by David Almond

Raven Summer

By David Almond

Raven Summer
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2009,
    208 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2011,
    208 pages.

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Book Summary

Liam and his friend Max are playing in their neighborhood when the call of a bird leads them out into a field beyond their town. There, they find a baby lying alone atop a pile of stones - with a note pinned to her clothing. Mystified, Liam brings the baby home to his parents. They agree to take her in, but police searches turn up no sign of the baby's parents. Finally they must surrender the baby to a foster family, who name her Allison. Visiting her in Northumberland, Liam meets Oliver, a foster son from Liberia who claims to be a refugee from the war there, and Crystal, a foster daughter. When Liam's parents decide to adopt Allison, Crystal and Oliver are invited to her christening. There, Oliver tells Liam about how he will be slaughtered if he is sent back to Liberia. The next time Liam sees Crystal, it is when she and Oliver have run away from their foster homes, desperate to keep Oliver from being sent back to Liberia. In a cave where the two are hiding, Liam learns the truth behind Oliver's dark past - and is forced to ponder what all children are capable of.

1

It starts and ends with the knife. I find it in the garden. I'm with Max Woods. We're messing about, digging for treasure, like we did when we were little kids. As always there's nothing but stones and roots and dust and worms. Then there it is, just below the surface, a knife with a wooden handle in a leather sheath. I lever it out of the earth. The curved blade's all tarnished, the handle's filthy, the sheath's blackened and stiff and starting to rot away.

I laugh in triumph.

"Treasure at last!"

"Huh!" says Max. "It's just an old pruning knife."

"Course it's not! It's from the ancient Romans or the reivers. It's a weapon of war!"

I hold it up towards the sun.

"I name thee... Death Dealer!" I say.

Max mutters under his breath and rolls his eyes. I stab the knife into the earth to clean. I wipe it on the grass. I spit on it and rub it. I pick up a stone and try to sharpen it.

Then a bird flutters onto the grass six feet away.

"Hello, crow," I say.

"It's a raven, townie," says Max. He imitates ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Begin a discussion regarding the major themes in the story, such as abandonment, violence, brutality, war, loss of innocence, resilience, the nature of art, fate, and truth. Challenge students to describe and discuss passages from the book that present these themes. Discuss how particular characters are associated with the themes.

  2. The first line of Raven Summer reads: "It starts and ends with the knife." The knife is just one symbol that appears in this story. Discuss other examples of symbolism (the raven, Nattrass, fighter jets, skin, the snakes in the pit, Allison) and what they represent. Discuss how the author uses these and other symbols to convey the story's major themes.

  3. Discuss how Liam grapples with feelings of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

The question of what is real and what is imaginary is at the heart of David Almond's stark and poetic novel, Raven Summer... How do children separate what is real and what is imagined? If something imaginary provokes something real, does that make the imaginary thing real too? Are children born innocent and does the landscape upon which they grow create their violence? Or are we born with violence inherently coursing through our veins? ...By skillfully and intentionally layering Raven Summer with multiple through-lines... David Almond creates a stunning portrait of what war and violence can do to the heart, mind, and body of a child.   (Reviewed by Tamara Smith).

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Media Reviews
VOYA

It is a dark novel, suited more for mature male readers; however, they may find Liam almost too immature for his supposed age and the constant attention on war and violence too disturbing.

Booklist

Starred Review. The kindness in every chapter is heartbreaking too. A haunting story, perfect for group discussion.

School Library Journal

This book is exquisitely crafted and will make any reader stop and think about the consequences of violence.

Publishers Weekly

Almond tackles complex questions about humanity from multiple points of view; flashes of wisdom - sometimes painful, sometimes uplifting - arrive at unexpected moments. Ages 12–up.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. ...With a storyteller's flair and a poet's precision, Almond reveals the fierce intensity of childhood.

Christian Science Monitor

A story that in less accomplished hands might seem overly dark and brutal, here has resolution and subtle, thoughtful lessons. Almond, the author of the award-winning Skellig and Kit's Wilderness, has again written a truly original novel - one that is lyrical, often frightening, and sure to be widely discussed.

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The Symbolism of Ravens

Raven Summer begins with a raven beckoning to Liam to follow him. He flies a bit ahead, stops, calls to Liam - Jak jak! Jak jak! - and then flies a bit ahead again. Like this, the raven leads Liam to the abandoned baby. What is the symbolism of this loud, large beaked, black bird?

Ravens figure prominently in many legends from around the world.

Welsh: The Welsh hero, Bran, whose name means raven, was the holder of ancestral memories. He was said to be so intelligent that he had his head interred in the Sacred White Mount in London (where the Tower of London stands) - this is after being decapitated in a battle with Ireland and his head becoming an oracle! Ravens roost there and are said to be protecting Bran's wisdom.

Norse: ...

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