Cover image for Secret heart
Secret heart
Almond, David, 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
199 pages ; 22 cm
Living with his mother in a small village on the edge of the suburbs, shy, often inarticulate, Joe Maloney frequently dreams of a beautiful, elusive tiger whose significance begins to be clear after he befriends a young trapeze artist who comes to town with a shabby traveling circus.
Reading Level:
520 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.3 5.0 65685.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.4 10 Quiz: 32424 Guided reading level: U.

Format :


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X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Joe Maloney is out of place in this world. His mother wants him to be a man, and he can't be that yet. His only friend, Stanny Mole, wants to teach him how to kill, and Joe can't learn that. Joe's mind is always somewhere else: on the weird creatures he sees in the distant sky, the songs he hears in the air around him, the vibrations of life he feels everywhere. Everybody laughs at Joe Maloney. And then a tattered circus comes to town, and a tiger comes for him. It leads him out into the night, and nothing in Joe Maloney's world is ever the same again. The transformative power of imagination and beauty flows through this story of a boy who walks where others wouldn't dare to go, a boy with the heart of a tiger, an unlikely hero who knows that sometimes the most important things are the most mysterious.

Author Notes

David Almond was born on May 15, 1951 in the United Kingdom. He writes novels for children and young adults including The Savage, Slog's Dad, My Name Is Mina, The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas, and The Tightrope Walkers. He has received numerous awards including the Carnegie Medal for Skellig, two Whitbread Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award for young-adult books for Kit's Wilderness, the Smarties Prize and the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for The Fire-Eaters, the 2015 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for A Song for Ella Grey, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-up. The tiger that becomes Joe Maloney's alter ego first appears to him in a dream, and when he wakes, he discovers that a circus has come to Helmouth, the dreary village where he lives with his mother. Joe feels inextricably drawn to the great tent, but he cannot explain why. Words are difficult for the stammering boy, who finds it hard to separate what exists in his head from what exists in the world, a blurriness that continues when he meets Corrina at the big top, a girl who seems strangely familiar to him. What special bond draws these two together? What surprising destiny does Joe discover beneath the tent's blue ceiling, with its remnants of an ancient, golden sun; a silver moon; and stars? The answers are an exquisite demonstration that, as Corinna tells Joe, «The most important things are the most mysterious.» The border between the numinous and the real is familiar territory for the British author, but this time he limns the landscape as seldom before--with heartbreaking yearning and richly powerful symbols that evoke both heaven and hell. With echoes of Ray Bradbury and William Blake, Secret Heart is filled with scenes of breathtaking beauty, wonder, and astonishment. It is an unforgettable achievement. Michael Cart.

Publisher's Weekly Review

With a reading as nimble and sure as cat feet, British actor Malcolm seems at home in the strange, exotic world of Almond's latest fantasy. Young Joe Maloney has never felt comfortable in his own skin. He sees creatures and hears voices that most people do not. Tougher still, kids ridicule Joe for his stammer and his odd, introspective ways. But when a tattered, run-down circus comes to Joe's village, he meets a crew of people who truly understand him. Corinne, a trapeze artist Joe's age, just may be his soulmate. And before the circus packs up its tent to leave, Joe finally finds a way to connect to the life force (embodied as a tiger) that he feels in his "secret heart." Fans of Almond's books Kit's Wilderness and Skellig will be the most willing to follow Malcolm's quick yet steady voice through this offbeat and symbol-rich story; others may find the tale's action a bit slow going. Throughout, Malcolm's soft-spoken portrayal of Joe is an excellent fit. Simultaneous release with the Delacorte hardcover. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6-10-Stuttering and often at a loss for words, Joe Maloney was born otherworldly, and his mother is his only advocate in his small English village. Peers pay him little heed other than to castigate him; teachers disparage his very presence. Even his mother says, "You're such a funny'n- Something different in your blood or something." Joe is confronted with myriad problems that include a friendship with Stanny Mole, who admonishes him to become a man, to go out and kill with him and Joff, a snake-tattooed miscreant-of-a-man. Dreaming his youth away, Joe skips school, heading for the forest at the call of a roaming tiger. He is befriended by Corinne, a Gypsy girl and young trapeze artist from a newly arrived, worn-out circus. She introduces him to capricious carnival types who gently encourage him to find his own way, to discover the heart of the tiger that lies dormant within him. The fine line between reality and fantasy is always neatly navigated yet left deliciously ethereal. Readers are forever left to wonder where one leaves off and the other begins. In some ways, the chimerical flavor of Almond's previous books is compromised here by a bit more heavy-handedness. Though not as mysterious as his other titles, this book has thought-provoking allegory that will engage older readers in more and more layers of meaning.-Daniel L. Darigan, West Chester University, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



One All that night, Joe Maloney sweated, twisted and turned. He dreamed that engines roared and lights blazed. Men yelled, children screamed, dogs yelped. Metal hammered on metal. He dreamed that the surface of the earth was lifted and hung from great hooks in the sky. Beneath it, shapeless beasts danced in the dark. Then he lay dead still. Easy breath, easy heart. He smelt sawdust, canvas, animal sweat, animal dung. Gentle noises, creakings and flappings. He felt something fingering his skull, felt someone whispering his name. He was about to wake up in some new place. "Joe!" yelled his mum. "Joseph!" He opened his eyes: just his bedroom, pale sunlight filtering through thin curtains, childhood drawings taped to the walls, his clothes in a heap on the floor. He sniffed the air, trying to smell the tiger again. "Joe!" she called. "Come on, son, will you?" He slithered from the tangled bed, picked up his clothes and dressed himself. He dragged on his heavy boots. He sniffed, listened, narrowed his eyes. "Joe!" In the bathroom, he splashed water onto himself, then leaned close to the mirror, inspected his pale face, his tangled hair, his one green eye, his one brown eye. He touched his skin. He hadn't changed. He was still just Joe Maloney. "Joseph!" He went down into the kitchen. She was at the table, pouring orange juice. She shook her head and clicked her tongue. She tugged his shirt square on his shoulders. She fastened the laces of his boots. "Joe Maloney. What you like?" He grinned. "L-like me," he said. She cuffed him gently on the shoulder. "Like you. And you're going to need me to get you up and get you dressed all your life?" He grinned again. "Yes." He buttered some toast and chewed it. She smiled, and smoothed his hair with her fingers and palms. "I had a d-dream," Joe said. "Now there's a change." "There was . . ." She shook her head, but she leaned toward him, about to listen. "There was . . . ?" she said. Joe rubbed his eyes and blinked. He looked out of the window and gasped. The summit of a blue tent stood high over the rooftops at the village's edge. "What's that?" "Eh?" "L-look, Mum." He jabbed the air. A blue tent, a blue paler than the morning sky. A great blue tent that trembled slightly in the morning breeze. "What?" she said. "There, look, Mum." She narrowed her eyes and peered. "Tent," he said. "A tent." "Oh . . . Aye. Now where might that come from?" They gazed at it together, the slope of blue rising from the dusty red rooftops. "Fancy that," she said. "A circus or something, eh? Last time a circus came to Helmouth was in . . ." She shrugged. "Before our time, I reckon." Joe shoved a piece of toast into his mouth. She put her arm around him as he prepared to go out. "Now, then, Joseph Maloney," she said. He lowered his eyes, then turned them to her. "You know what I'm going to say, don't you?" "Yes, Mum." "You make sure you get into school today. OK?" "OK, Mum." She kissed him. "Don't want that rotten Wag Man coming round again, do I?" "No, Mum." "You. What a lad. Sometimes wonder what I brought into the world. How can a lad be so lovely and so much trouble? Can you answer me that?" "No, Mum." "No, Mum. Come on, then, give us a kiss." She took him to the door, watched him walk through the garden to the front gate. She raised her finger as he turned to wave. "Be sure, now," she said. "Yes, Mum," he said, then hurried toward the Cut. Excerpted from Secret Heart by David Almond All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.