|Genre||Young adult novel|
|Publisher||Hodder & Stoughton|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Pages||233 pp (first edition)|
|LC Class||PZ7.A448 Ki 1999|
Kit's Wilderness is a children's novel by David Almond, published by Hodder Children's Books in 1999. It is set in a fictional English town in the northeast of the country and was based on the former coal-mining towns the author knew as a child growing up in Tyne and Wear. It was silver runner-up for the Smarties Prize in ages category 9–11 years, highly commended for the Carnegie Medal, and shortlisted for the Guardian Prize.
Thirteen-year-old Kit and his family have moved back to Stoneygate to be with his grandfather, who is succumbing to Alzheimer's Disease, after Kit's Grandmother dies. His grandfather, an ex-miner, tells him about the town's coal-mining days and the hardships and disasters that were a part of his youth. Kit meets Allie Keenan, full of energy and life, but also shadowy John Askew and the dangerous 'game' he plays – a game called Death. Through playing the game, Kit comes to see the lost children of the mines and begins to connect his grandfather’s fading memories to his, his friends’ and Stoneygate's history.
The Watsons are known as one of the "Old families"  because they have ancestors who worked in the mines before they were closed, such as Kit’s grandfather. Askew surrounds himself with characters that are from families who worked in the mines including Kit. Now that he is a part of Askew’s group, Kit is invited to play the game Death, in which they reenact the death of children in the mines.
Once chosen for Death, Kit undergoes a change; snapping at Allie on multiple occasions. Noting this change, his teacher Miss Bush follows him and uncovers the game. Askew is expelled from school for being the leader. To escape his father, who is an alcoholic, Askew runs away and lives in an abandoned mine shafts. Angry at Kit for ending the game and getting him expelled, Askew sends Bobby Carr, another character from the "Old families" group, to bring Kit to the cave where they confront each other in the book’s climax.
After some big arguments reveal Askew’s madness at Kit, Kit then tells Askew about a story he "wrote for you[Askew]." The story mirrors Askew’s life from the perspective of an early man named Lak, and while telling the story to him, they see ghosts from the story. When the tale concludes, the ghost takes a "part of me[Askew]" and he is no longer mad. Allie finds the two of them in the mine after getting their location from Bobby, and they go back to town. Askew is accepted back into school to take art classes, his father stops drinking, and at the end of the novel, Kit’s grandfather dies. After he dies Kit decides to move on, knowing that his grandfather will be with him forever.
- Christopher "Kit" Watson: Thirteen-year old Christopher "Kit" Watson, the protagonist of the novel and enjoys writing stories. He is from one of the "Old families."
- John Askew: The antagonist, Thirteen-year old Askew, is described by critics as "alluring and dangerous," befriending Christopher throughout the course of novel. He is a described as a skilled artist and is from one of the "Old families."
- Alison Keenan: Allison, or Allie, is a character that becomes friends with Christopher and has aspirations of being an actor. She is seen as a "temptress and protector," and described as a "bad-lass" by Christopher’s Grandfather.
- Grandfather Watson: Grandfather Watson is an old man who lives and has worked in the town of Stoneygate. He worked in the coal mines before they were closed and is described by critics as the "wise one."
- Bobby Carr: Bobby Carr, acts as a body guard and messenger to Askew. He is suspicious of Christopher when he first joins their group, and is used by Askew to fetch Christopher for their confrontation in a mine shaft.
- Mother and Father Watson: Christopher’s parents play the role of caretakers for Grandfather Watson while he is ill.
- Miss Bush “Burning Bush”: Miss Bush is a character who uncovers the game of Death, which gets Askew expelled, and assigns Christopher the story he ends up telling Askew in the mine.
- Father Askew: Askew’s Father is an alcoholic who gets sober after Askew returns from running away.
- Mother Askew: Askew’s mother is the character that raises Askew and his baby sister. When Askew runs away she asks Christopher to bring him back.
- Silky: The ethereal or imagined 'ghost boy' Kit Watson and his grandfather see in their dreams about the mine shafts.
Many of the elements from the story were taken from the author’s own life. In an interview he talked about how, in the town he grew up in, “We had a monument...[and]an old graveyard...to a pit disaster” just like in the novel. He also based the game death on "children’s games I played." In addition he "based the book on his own childhood in a northeast England mining community."
Major themes and style
Kit’s Wilderness included conflicting opposites and important relationships. The Horn Book Magazine noted some themes, including "Light and dark, of life and death, [and] of remembering and forgetting." An interview with the "power of friendship." He went on to note the, "bravery of children." and how it had played a central role in his writing.
Kit’s Wilderness uses style as both a literary element and to add another layer to the story. Enicia Fisher noted the "rare break from story-telling tradition,[in which] David Almond gives the ending away at the beginning." He also made a point of the “Web of stories” in the book that resulted from Kit’s story within the story. Enicia Fisher also described the story as a blend of “Magic and realism."
Kit’s Wilderness received both positive and negative reviews, by being praised and criticized by critics. A review in the Forecasts newspaper praised the novel as "Awe inspiring." Enicia Fisher described the internal storytelling as an "Imagistic tale," though it has been said that reading this book required a “Suspension of disbelief.” The book was also called “Convoluted" by the Horn Book Magazine. And yet, the School Library Journal praised Kit’s Wilderness for its "Otherworldliness."
- "Kit's wilderness" (first U.S. edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
- Interview with David Almond in January Magazine, February 2002.
- American Library Association: Michael L. Printz Winners and Honor Books "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 2013-05-15. . Retrieved 8 July 2009.
- Adapted from the synopsis of the book at hodderliterature.co.uk
- Almond, p.10
- Almond, p.188
- Almond, p.203
- Almond, p.55
- Bloom, Susan (1 March 2000). "Kit's Wilderness (Book Review)". Horn Book Magazine. 76 (2). Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- Almond, p.57
- Almond, p.15
- Odean, Kathleen (1 April 2001). "Mystic Man". School Library Journal. 47 (4). Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Fisher, Enicia (6 April 2000). "A Dark Light in the Coal Mine of History". Christian Science Monitor. 92 (94). Retrieved March 14, 2012.
- Roback, Brown, Diane, Jennifer (3 January 2000). "FORECASTS: CHILDREN'S BOOKS". Publishers weekly. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
- Fader, Ellen (1 March 2000). "GRADES 5 & UP: Fiction". School Library Journal. Portland. 46 (3). Retrieved 15 March 2012.