THE COLOR OF THE SUN
One hot summer morning, only weeks after his father’s death, Davie steps out his front door into the familiar streets of the Tyneside town that has always been his home. But this seemingly ordinary day takes on an air of mystery and tragedy as the residents learn that a boy has been killed. Despite the threat of a murderer on the loose, Davie turns away from the gossip and sets off toward the sunlit hill above town, where the real and imaginary worlds begin to blur around him. As he winds his way up the hillside, Davie sees things that seem impossible but feel utterly right,
One hot summer morning, only weeks after his father’s death, Davie steps out his front door into the familiar streets of the Tyneside town that has always been his home. But this seemingly ordinary day takes on an air of mystery and tragedy as the residents learn that a boy has been killed. Despite the threat of a murderer on the loose, Davie turns away from the gossip and sets off toward the sunlit hill above town, where the real and imaginary worlds begin to blur around him. As he winds his way up the hillside, Davie sees things that seem impossible but feel utterly right, that renew his wonder and instill him with hope. Full of the intense excitement of growing up, David Almond’s tale leaves both the reader and Davie astonished at the world and eager to explore it.
Award-winning author David Almond pens the dreamlike tale of a boy rediscovering joy and beauty within and around him, even amid sorrow.
- Candlewick Press
- September 2019
- 224 Pages
“Taking place in a single day, this story works particularly well because of the authenticity of the setting; the dreamlike quality of the prose; and the specificity of one particular off-kilter, grieving, curious, sweet boy.” – The Horn Book
“In this piece of masterful storytelling, a small town offers its own brand of solace to a young teen struggling with loss. Recommended.” – School Library Journal
“Almond manages to craft deeply real stories touched by magic that itself feels true, being so well rooted in character and emotion—in this case, Davie’s grief. Thematic and lyrical, colored by Newcastle slang and the English countryside, this is one for the deep thinkers and those who are dealing with grief.” – Booklist
“Touches of humor, pithy words of Northern common sense, and moments of heightened tension and mystery provide grounding elements in the midst of the reverie… A haunting tale of embracing transformation and finding beauty in an imperfect world.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Through economic prose expressing Davie’s memories and keen observations, the book subtly shows the protagonist’s grief over losing his father and childhood innocence. Spanning only one day, it evokes the mysteriousness of life, the power of imagination, and moments when childhood and adulthood intertwine.” – Publishers Weekly
“Almond’s narrative is almost poetic in his descriptions of animals, sky, sun, and landscape, making it well worth the extra effort of trying to decipher the dialect. This poetic language would fit in well in an English classroom by having students study figurative language and the literary devices used to create it.” – School Library Connection
1. At the beginning of this novel, Davie’s mother says, “Get yourself out into the sun, lad!” (page 1). On the face of it, she is urging her son to go outside, but what does she really want from him? By the end of the novel, how has Davie fulfilled his mother’s wish?
2. Take note of what Davie packs in his haversack. What does his mother add to the bag? What do you think is the significance of each item?
3. The Killens are a fierce clan, as their name suggests. What pleasure do they take in fighting? Why are even the youngest of the Killens so eager to go into battle with the Craigs? Do you think it’s possible for either the Killens or the Craigs to change their violent ways? Why?
4. “I hardly care if it’s true or not,” Letitia says of her story of a bird and a baby (page 104). “I care only for the strangeness and the beauty and the terror of it.” What is your reaction to her tale? Do you find it strange or beautiful or terrifying? What is the significance of the flight that Davie takes later in the novel? Does the experience change him? Why?
5. Davie is a character in a novel, not an actual person, so he is right to wonder if “maybe he himself is living in a story” (page 43). What are the important differences between fictional characters and real people? Are fictional characters less important? More important? Why?
6. “I’m in the wrong tale,” Paddy says to Davie (page 52). “I’m already writing a new life” (page 53). What do you think the priest is saying about himself? How can he be both a character in one story and the author of another?
7. The United States and England share the same language, but not all the same vocabulary. Keep track of unfamiliar British words and phrases that you encounter in this book. What does each mean?
8. Davie is at an in-between age: too young to be preoccupied by girls and too old to play with his collection of stuffed animals. How do you think this novel would have been different if he were a little bit older or a little bit younger?
9. Of all the people Davie encounters on his climb up the hill, who is your favorite? Why?
10. A strange, slobbering dog follows Davie for most of the day. “Why are you with me?” the boy asks (page 115). What is your answer to Davie’s question? When does the dog finally leave? Why?
11. Davie’s mother has recently been widowed, but she doesn’t act like someone who has just suffered a great loss. Are you surprised by her behavior? How does she stay cheerful?
12. “Stop thinking,” Davie thinks to himself (page 39). “Stop wondering about everything. Just walk.” How would you rate Davie’s advice to himself? What are the advantages of not thinking too much? What are the disadvantages?
13. “There’s always secret places waiting to be found,” Davie’s father told him. “Even in a little town like this, where you can think you’ve seen everything there is to see” (pages 130–131). Have you found secret places in your own community? Where are they?
14. The border between life and death in this novel is hazy, maybe even nonexistent. Who are the important dead people in Davie’s life? How do they guide him throughout his journey? Does it matter to him that they’re deceased? Does it matter to you?
15. “What we doing? Where we going? Why are we here?” (page 155). Wilf doesn’t have any answers. Do you? How would you respond to Wilf’s questions?
16. Once you’ve finished the novel, go back and reread its first line. What did it mean to you when you first read it? What does it mean to you now? How does this opening sentence set the stage for the rest of the book?
It’s an ordinary summer day, the day that Jimmy Killen dies and comes to life again. It’s the middle of the summer, when it sometimes seems like time stands still, when it seems there’s nothing at all to do. Davie’s in his bed, in the shadows behind his bedroom curtains when it all begins. The whole day lies before him, but he wants to stay there. He wants to be older so he could be with a lass or go drinking with the lads. He wants to be younger so he could run about yelling like a daft thing.His mam calls up from down below.
“Davie! Get yourself out into the sun, lad!”
He peeps through the curtains. He’s dazzled by the light. He can see nothing when he turns back to his room. He rubs his eyes till his sight returns and he sees it all anew.
He starts digging through some ancient toys. Animal masks have been hanging inside his wardrobe door for so long he’s nearly forgotten that they’re there at all. They’ve been gathering dust since he was four or five. A gorilla, a tiger, a horse, a fox. The fox was best. He’d pull it on and leap and screech to make his parents terrifi ed. He does it again now, alone in his shady bedroom. He looks out through the fox eyes and raises his claws, and he snarls and imagines he’s slaughtering a coop full of chickens.
“Davie! What the heck you doing up there?”
He laughs and rips the mask off. He laughs again to see the plastic antlers dangling on the door as well. How could he have forgotten them? He sticks them on his head. He steps quietly through the room, looking out for predators. He rocks his head and shakes the antlers. He leaps and dances silently, and soon the antlers start to feel like proper antlers. The room feels like a forest. He starts to lose himself in the old game of being a boy who’s also a beast.
He pauses. Why am I doing all this? he wonders.
Maybe it’s time to get rid of things, time to chuck this childish stuff out.Mam calls from down below again.
“Aye!” he calls. “Coming, Mam!”
But he keeps on digging. He finds some ancient coloring pencils, from when he was maybe five or six. There’s an old sketchbook as well, with a faded green cover and brittle pages. He opens it and comes upon things he hasn’t seen for years: scrawled pictures of dark monsters and slithery snakes. Stick figures of his mam and dad, pictures of the house, a scribbly sketch of a lovely black-and-brown dog they used to have called Stew. A page full of pictures of himself. A picture of a baby with messy writing beside it: Davie as a baby. A picture of an ancient man with a beard: Davie wen he is old. And here’s the beginning of an ancient tale that starts and then gets nowhere past the first two sentences: Wons ther was a boy calld Davie and he wonted an advencha. So he got sum sanwichs and he got his nife and set owt into the darknes. The ends of the pencils are chewed and he chews them again, and he thinks how weird it is that he’s probably tasting himself as he was all those years ago.
There’s an old gray haversack. His dad gave it to him a few years ago. Davie used to stride around the house with it on his back, marching and saluting and carrying an imaginary rifle on his shoulder. He puts the fox mask, the antlers, the pencils and the book into it. He slings it across his shoulders and goes down.
Mam’s in the red-hot kitchen. She’s been baking, making bara brith and lemon meringue pie, such lovely things. There’s a smell of lemon, raisins, warm yeasty dough. Davie salivates as he imagines the delicious food on his tongue.She stands there with her arms folded. There’s drifts of white fl our on her red-and-white apron. Dad’s favorite painting, of sunflowers, is shining bright on the wall behind her. Sunlight pours into the room.
“About time!” she says. “Now eat that breakfast and shift those bones.”
She guides him to a chair at the table. There’s a bowl of cornfl akes and some toast and some orange juice. She hums a tune and spreads her arms and shifts her feet in a gentle dance. She smiles and sighs as he eats and drinks.
“Now get yourself out into the world,” she says.
“The lovely world outside that door.”
“I’ve been there before, Mam. I’ve seen it all before.”
She grins back at him.
“Aye,” she says. “But you haven’t been in it on this day, and you haven’t seen it in this light.”
“And what if there’s a mad axman on the loose out there?”
She taps her cheek and ponders for a moment.
“That’s a good point,” she says. Then she shrugs. “It’s just a risk you’ll have to take!”
She laughs at the haversack. She asks what’s inside and he tells her.
“Those old things!” she says. “Didn’t you use to love them!”
She smiles as she gazes back into the past for a moment.
Then she puts a little package into his hand. It’s a piece of warm bara brith, wrapped in waxed paper.
“There’s butter on it,” she says. “And there’s a slice of Cheshire cheese with it. Won’t it be delicious? Put it in the bottom of your sack so you won’t be tempted to eat it too soon.”
He does that.
She puts her hands around his head and plants a kiss at the top of his skull. She blows away the floury dust that she leaves there. She spreads her hand across his back and gently guides him to the door.
“Go on,” she says. “There’ll be time enough for sitting about when you get to be as old as me.”
“I’ll never get as old as that!”
“I’m glad to hear it,” she whispers.
She kisses him again.
“Now, my Davie, out you go. Don’t hurry back. The day is long, the world is wide, you’re young and free.”
And out he goes, to start his wandering.