A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

A Song for Ella Grey

Written by David Almond

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

Winner of the 2015 Guardian Children's Book prize -Winner of the 2015 Peters Book of the Year 'Teen Fiction' Award Award-winning David Almond is at his lyrical best in this eloquent, tender and ultimately devastating contemporary teenage love story which draws lightly but to great effect on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Camping on a beach near home as a break from school and its pressures, a group of teenagers, minus their friend Ella, come across Orpheus, a wandering musician. No one knows where he comes from or whether he will appear again but his music is so special that Claire plays it down the phone to Ella. And Ella is entranced. But who is Orpheus? The power of love and the terrible danger it can pose drives this exceptionally touching and thoughtful story. ~ Julia Eccleshare

Guardian Children's Book prize Judge and author Jenny Valentine described the book as “an absolute masterclass in the transformative power of language. It is fearless, free and full of wonder and I am changed by reading it.” Fellow judge Natasha Farrant said that reading the story of Ella Grey “hasn’t just changed the way I look at Orpheus. It has changed the way I look at the world.”

“It’s a real honour to win it at last,” said Almond after hearing of his victory. “It’s made very special by the fact that it’s judged by my fellow authors.”

Describing the myth, one of the most frequently reworked tales, as a challenge and inspiration to any artist, Almond said that he found himself almost haunted by the character as he wrote: “At times, I even sensed Orpheus himself in my writing room. I sensed him on stage when I went to listen to music; I felt how he responded to what was being played, leaping with delight, or turning away in disappointment.”


A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

I'm the one who's left behind. I'm the one to tell the tale. I knew them both...knew how they lived and how they died. Claire is Ella Grey's best friend. She's there when the whirlwind arrives on the scene: catapulted into a North East landscape of gutted shipyards; of high arched bridges and ancient collapsed mines. She witnesses a love so dramatic it is as if her best friend has been captured and taken from her. But the loss of her friend to the arms of Orpheus is nothing compared to the loss she feels when Ella is taken from the world. This is her story - as she bears witness to a love so complete; so sure, that not even death can prove final.


Infused with lyricism and with the fire and oddness of adolescence. Fresh, involving and lucid, it is a song in itself, and teens will find it fills them with poignant longing and joy. The Daily Telegraph

A desperately romantic and deeply lyrical re-imagining of Orpheus and Eurydice... David Almond at his best. * * * * * Bookbag

Passages of magic. Financial Times

Beautifully written... poetic and allusive. Irish Times

Spell-binding... impossible to resist... breathless, intoxicating prose. [Almond's] books seem to exist in their own otherworldly universe, outside all the trends in modern publishing, yet resolutely of the now. The Glasgow Herald

Lyrical and dreamlike, this beautifully written story conjures up the insane intensity of first love and the effect it has on those caught up in its slipstream. Authentic teenage characters and attitudes, and Almond's control of emotion is superb. Daily Mail

Almond's writing is superb. Irish Daily Mail

A ravishing, ingenious novel told in Almond's own hypnotic northern lilt. The Scotsman

A retelling of the myth of Orpheus... Almond's version is a revelation: his poetic prose seeps into your blood like word-venom until you can't imagine reading anything else (Children's Book of the Week) The Times

a strong sense of mystery...lyrical... poetic...moves in a deliberate dreamlike way. A beautiful book that works on several levels A triumph. Marcus Sedgwick The Guardian

Intriguing adaptation of the tale of Orpheus, skilfully crafted and blended with modern teen life and a real flavour of Northumberland. Haunting. Peters eGazette

Almond is an incredibly powerful storyteller. Poetic... dreamlike and lyrical. A devastatingly poignant novel. Newcastle Chronicle

A desperately romantic and deeply lyrical re-imagining of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Full of the hums and thrums of emotions, landscape, music and poetry, it's David Almond at his best. The Bookbag

Bliddy marvellous, as his Geordie protagonists would say. The Independent on Sunday

A masterly retelling of the Orpheus myth. Lyrical prose is matched with equally beautiful passages. Financial Times

About the Author

David Almond

David Almond was our Guest Editor in September 2011 CLICK HERE to see his choices.

As a child

I grew up in a large Catholic family in Felling-on-Tyne: four sisters and one brother. I always knew I'd be a writer – I wrote stories and stitched them into little books. I had an uncle who was a printer, and in his printing shop I learned my love of black words on white pages. I loved our local library and dreamed of seeing books with my name on the cover on its shelves. I also dreamed of playing for Newcastle United (and I still wait for the call!). There was much joy in my childhood, but also much sadness: a baby sister died when I was 7; my dad died when we were all still young; my mum was always seriously ill with arthritis. But it was a childhood, like all childhoods, that provided everything a writer needs, and it illuminates and informs everything I write.

As an adult

After school, I read English and American Literature. When I graduated I became a teacher – long holidays, short days, just perfect for a writer. After 5 years, I gave up the job and lived in a commune in rural Norfolk where I wrote and met my partner Sara Jane. I wrote a long adult novel that was rejected by every UK publisher. I had two collections of short stories published by the tiny IRON Press. I started another adult novel, put it aside, and suddenly, out of the blue, I found myself writing Skellig. It was as if the story had been waiting for me, and once I began, it seemed to write itself. I hadn't expected to write a children's novel, but in some way it was the natural outcome of everything I'd done before, and was the stepping-stone to everything I've done since. I now live in Northumberland with Sara Jane and our daughter Freya. I'm a full-time writer. Sara Jane makes ceramics, Freya goes to school.

As an artist

For years, I was hardly published and hardly anyone knew about me apart from a handful of keen fans. And I made just about no money at all from writing. That didn't really matter to me. I'd keep on writing, no matter what. Then I wrote Skellig and everything changed. I began to sell lots of books, to be translated into many languages, to travel, to win lots of prizes. I've written a number of novels after Skellig, including Kit's Wilderness, The Fire-Eaters and Clay. There have been stage versions of the novels, and films and an opera are on their way. I used to write in the attic at home, but there were lots of distractions – especially from email and telephone. So last year, I had a cabin built at the bottom of the garden. It's very nice, blue-grey and surrounded by trees. I have a radiator to keep me warm and I have a tap and a kettle for making tea. Every morning – when I'm at home and not travelling or making school visits or talking to people on the phone or answering emails – I carry my laptop down to the cabin and I set to work.

Things you didn't know about David Almond

I once held the school high-jump record – 5 ft 2.5 inches.

I have a pet rabbit called Bill who can grunt.

I dream about football – and kick in my sleep!

I love Japanese food – except for the thing I was given once that looked like an alien's brain.

I've taken part in three Great North Runs (half-marathons).

My favourite place is Upper Swaledale in Yorkshire.

I love bikes, camping and fires.

My first TV appearance was as an altar boy in a televised mass when I was eleven.

My grandfather was a bookie (he took bets on horse races). His advice? "Never bet." He also told me, "Never read novels. They're all just lies."

My nickname at school was Dai, and several old friends still call me that.

Julia Eccleshare on David Almond:

One of the best-loved and finest writers of today, David Almond made an immediate impact with Skellig, his first book. The moving story of a boy’s discovery of a strange creature in the shed which can be interpreted in many ways introduced some to the recurrent themes of David Almond’s writing. Infused with a touch of magic or the supernatural or ‘belief’, David Almond writes sensitively about the inner complexities of growing up. Much influenced by the landscape of Tyneside where he was brought up and still lives, David Almond’s books have a strong sense of place especially in titles such as Heaven’s Eyes, The Fire-Eater and Kit’s Wilderness. Although often clearly set in some particular time, there is a timeless quality to David Almond’s stories which give them enduring appeal.

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Book Info


288 pages
Interest Age: From 12


David Almond
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Hodder Children's Books an imprint of Hachette Children's Group

Publication date

4th June 2015




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