Raven Summer

Raven Summer

by David Almond

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A captivating new novel from Printz Award winner David Almond.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375893858
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 11/10/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

David Almond won the Printz Award for his novel, Kit’s Wilderness, and a Printz Honor for Skellig. He lives in England with his partner and their daughter.

Read an Excerpt


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 its call. "Jak jak! Jak! Jak jak!"

The raven bounces, croaks back at him.
Jak jak! Jak jak!

"It's after the worms," says Max.

"No. It's seen something shiny! It's seen Roman gold! There, look!"

I dig like a maniac for a few daft moments. I stab the earth, plunge the knife deeper. Then my hand slips and blood's pouring out from my wrist. I scream, then laugh at myself and press my finger to the little wound.

Max mutters again.

"Sometimes I think you're crackers," he says.

"Me too," I say.

We lie in the grass and stare at the sky. It's early summer, hardly more than spring, but the sun's been pouring down for weeks. The ground's baked hard, the grass is already getting scorched. It'll be the hottest summer ever, and the story is they'll keep on getting hotter. The dust and soil's like a crust on my hands and arms. It mingles on my wrist with the dark red of drying blood, just like a painting or a map.

A low-flying jet thunders over us, then another, then _another.

"Begone, you beasts!" I call.

I flourish the knife at them as they streak away southwards over Hadrian's Wall, over the chapel of St. Michael and All Angels and out of sight.

Then my wound's bleeding again. I'll need a plaster. We get up and head for the house.

"It's all yours, Jack," I say.

I expect the bird to hop into the hole, but it doesn't. It flies over us and lands again six feet in front of us, looks at us, then flies a bit further on, lands, and looks at us again.

"You can tame them, you know," says Max.


"Aye. We had one when I was a squirt. It was great-lived on the back path, begged for food at the door, perched on your wrist. Jak jak! Funnily enough, we called it Jack."

"What happened to it?"

"Joe Bolton shot it." He holds the air like he's holding a gun. "Kapow! He said it was trying to nest in his chimney. But I think he just wanted to kill something. Kapow!"

He waves his arms and runs at it and it flaps up into the sky.

"Go on! Get lost! Shoo!"

Inside the house, I find the plasters. I rub some of the dirt off the wound with a bit of kitchen towel, blot the trickling blood, then stick the plaster on. I clean more dirt off the knife blade. I wash it with soap. I sharpen it on the knife sharpener on the kitchen wall. I spray furniture polish on the handle and wipe it. I spray the sheath as well, and I bend it and run it between my fingers and straightaway it starts softening. I smile.

"Very nice," I say.

I loop my belt through the sheath and the knife sits there at my hip.

"What d'you think?" I say.

"I think you'll get arrested," he says. "It's against the law."

I laugh.

"A pruning knife? Against the law?"

I tug my T-shirt over it, hiding it.

"OK now?" I say.

I get some bread and cheese and lemonade and we sit on the bench at the back door. The raven's on the gatepost now.

Jak jak! Jak jak!

It stabs its beak towards us. It flutters its wings, it bounces and bobs.

"What do you want?" I laugh.

Jak jak! Jak jak!

A printer whirrs upstairs. Dad, hard at work as usual. We look up, towards his open window.

"What's he writing now?" says Max.

"Dunno. He tells nobody nothing till it's finished."

We chew and listen.

"Weird," says Max.

I swig the lemonade, swipe my wrist across my lips.

"Aye. Sometimes it's like having a ghost in the house. Come on. Let's head out, eh?"

So we leave the garden.


We get onto the footpath that skirts the house, then head along the long potholed lane towards the village. There's a single hiker in a red cap moving ahead of us. There's kids on the field beside the village school. Somebody's screaming, like they're getting lumps kicked out of them. Then there's a cheer and a howl of laughter, and a bunch of them break away and belt uphill towards Great Elm.

"Want to join in?" I say.

"Mebbe," says Max.

Gordon Nattrass appears at the edge of the field. He watches us from the fence, then he jumps over it and comes towards us. He's carrying a rusty saw in his hand.

"Hello, brothers," he says.

Brothers. It's what he always says.
"What you up to, brothers? Where you off to, brothers?"

"Nowt," says Max.

"Nowhere," I say.

"What you up to?" I say.

He grins.

"Fun and games," he says. "Come on over, eh?"

Another jet screams over us and streaks away towards the east.
"Bomb them back to the Stone Age!" yells Nattrass, then he spits. "Come on," he says.

I'm about to go with him, but Max holds back.
"Mebbe later," he says.

I look at Max. I look at Nattrass. Nattrass and I were friends when we were small. We did the blood brothers thing one day, cutting our thumbs, then pressing the wounds together and letting our blood flow into each other. I touch the knife at my hip as I remember it. But it was ages back. After that he started changing, started becoming the Nattrass we know today.
He winks at me.

"OK, brother," he says. "Later, then. I'll look out for you."

He rests the saw blade at the side of his neck, then drags it back like he's going to saw his head off. He laughs, runs back to the field, and soon there's more screaming.

"I hate that bastard," says Max.

"Me too," I say.

Customer Reviews

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Raven Summer 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a darkly disturbing book, which is what Almond's books tend to be. This is a story of two friends who find a baby. Finding the baby is the lightest part of the book, town bullies, knives, fights in holes dug in the ground, a young liberian foster child, a run away foster girl are a mix of the characters.This is not your typical coming of age tale. While it was powerful and the writing was creative, I really cannot recommend it. Maybe I was in the mood for something lighter and thus my opinions are shaped because of that.
ChristianR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book didn't achieve for me what it intended to do. Liam and a friend find an abandoned baby, who gets put in foster care with two teenagers, Crystal and Oliver. They make an immediate intense connection with Liam, and so when they ultimately run away they turn to Liam for help. An old friend of Liam's, Nattrass, who's become bad and loves violence pushes his way in to incite something exciting and dangerous. None of the characters connected with me and I felt very disoriented trying to understand all of their interpersonal relationships and motivations.
EKAnderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Raven Summer by David AlmondIn the eerie, literary voice David Almond is so well-known for, Raven Summer chronicles the life of Liam Lynch, a young man living on the English country side. When he and his friend follow a Raven on one lazy summer afternoon, they¿re shocked to find an abandoned baby. What unfolds is a chain of events that all lead back to that day. The people Liam meets through saving the baby will change his life, and the life of his family, forever. Touching on current events, the human condition, and coming of age, everyone will see a bit of themselves in these characters. Part adventure, part drama, part contemporary folk tale, Raven Summer is the kind of book that stays with you long after you¿ve read it.
mamzel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young man in a comfortable albeit odd, artsy family learns hard facts about the life of the kids around him; the town bully, a scarred beautiful girl, and a young black man from Liberia. Very powerful.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel is full of darkness and savagery. In some ways it reminds of "Lord of the Flies". What makes this novel most interesting is what happens at the end. Playing at violence and actually being involved in real violence are very different. There are some interesting things going on - the ideas of art and reality, the idea of magic and the supernatural, the idea of war. All these things mix into the summer that Liam sits on the edge between childhood and young adulthood.
kevinyezbick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Liam lives in England where his mom is a rising photographer engaged in an affair with her agent, his dad is a famous writer in constant engagement with his writing, and he himself is increasingly feeling like he is being left behind. His friend Max has recently taken to gals, and his childhood friend Gordon is taken with the torturing of animals and Liam alike. When Liam and Max stumble upon an abandoned baby in a barn, Liam briefly becomes a somewhat reluctant news celebrity. His family sets out to visit the foundling in its new foster family setting, where Liam meets another set of characters - green haired and intriguing Crystal - and Oliver, scarred from his war torn past.Mix up all these characters and you eventually get to a pivotal point in the plot - which leaves a few loose ends around what seems to be a modern day attempt at Lord of the Flies. The writing stands out in its descriptions that seem the perfect bite size to be adapted to an audiobook. It's a quick read - you might as well.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
One discovery, one event, can change your life forever. For Liam, it was following a raven, which would ultimately lead him into one of the darkest summers he would ever experience. With the raven came the discovery of a little baby, abandoned with just a note labeling her as "a childe of God," and a jar of money. Liam and his friend, Max, take turns carrying the baby on the way back to Liam's house, knowing that this lovely-smelling baby will need milk, clothes, a family. Without an appearance of the baby's parents, she is quickly taken to a foster family, where Liam meets Crystal and Oliver. RAVEN SUMMER continues with the introduction and Liam's encounters with characters that have had dark experiences or are experiencing dark thoughts. There is the foster child, Oliver, a refugee from Liberia, who fled after his parents were murdered and before he could do any harm to others. His dark past and what he was dangerously taught still haunts him, as his scar is a blatant reminder of what his life was like before experiencing a "safer" world. Then there is Gordon Nattrass, a friend of Liam's whose mind turns to the dark as he enjoys the actions of beheading, torturing, and bullying animals - and some humans. Liam himself can't help but think of violent images of war, as all around him are wars between countries and even somewhat between his friends. RAVEN SUMMER is a dark, compelling, and intriguing novel with complex and sometimes even frightening thoughts. It strongly expresses the evil and violence that encompass the world through the minds and eyes of all ages. The novel concludes by connecting the lives of the younger cast of characters with a climatic ending, including a game turned awry. This is a novel that one must experience firsthand in order to truly understand what a classic it will be one day.