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.
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 ...
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).
Full Review (1020 words).
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.
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