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A writer’s talent is a gift from the gods, but a talent to write for children and be understood and appreciated by them is a double gift. David Almond is one of those – rare – doubly gifted writers. His classic novel for young persons, Skellig (Salani), has been translated into forty languages, has been adapted for stage, radio and the screen. There is even an opera based on it. But today we want to mention especially his latest novel, War Is Over, a very moving tale set during what used to be called the Great War—World War One. The central character, John, cannot understand how, since he is a child, he can be ‘at war’, as his teacher assures him he is. John’s father is fighting in the trenches, and his mother works in a munitions factory. One day, John meets a little boy like himself—like him, except that Jan is a German. It is a very moving story, lent additional pathos in these days, when we see every night on our television screens the terrified eyes of the children of Ukraine. But War Is Over is full of hope for the future in which children like John will grow up still asking the question: How can I be at war with my fellow man? As David Almond has said, ‘When I write stories, I feel a connection with the very young, who will build a better tomorrow.’ David Almond stories together form a thread of hope
David Almond was born in Newcastle in 1951 and grew up in Felling on Tyne in a large Catholic family. He describes his childhood as a happy period, but also characterized by great sadness: at the age of seven he lost a sister and at fifteen his father. As a child he loved running in the fields on the outskirts of his town, playing soccer with friends, and getting lost among the books in the small local library.
Although he hated grammar lessons at school, he dreamed of becoming a writer and to see his books on the shelves of that library one day.
After graduating in English and American Literature at the University of East Anglia, he worked as a factory worker, a door-to-door salesman, a postman and made several other jobs, finally becoming an elementary school teacher. He began to write as a hobby on weekends and vacations, publishing his stories in some magazines. At the age of thirty he decided to devote himself entirely to writing, so he left his job, sold his house and moved to Norfolk for a year. It took him five years to write his first novel, which was rejected by all the publishers to whom it was proposed.
Success finally arrived with Skellig: published in forty languages and with over a million copies sold for the English edition only, the novel toured the world and was adapted for the radio, cinema and theater. In addition to Skellig, there are many works for children published in Italy and almost all by Salani: Clay, My Name is Mina, The boy who climbed into the moon, Kit’s Wilderness, The true tale of monster Billy Dean, My Dad’s a Birdman! A Song for Ella Grey, the boy who swam with the piranhas, the Tale of Angelino Brown and War is over.
Among the many awards he has won there are the Hans Christian Andersen Award, considered the Nobel Prize of literature for children, the Whitbread Children’s Award, the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and the French Prix Sorcières.
Today he lives in Northumberland with his family and teaches Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. He loves Italy, the sea, Japanese cuisine, sardines and all that is spicy. He firmly believes that every story we write, read, act, sing or dance is an act of optimism and resistance to the negative forces that try to suffocate us, and that’s why he will never stop writing.