THE SKELETON TREE by Iain Lawrence


Age Range: 8 - 12
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Chris, 12, is thrilled to sail from Kodiak, Alaska, down to Vancouver, British Columbia, with Uncle Jack but surprised (and not thrilled) to discover Frank, a sullen teen, is coming, too; the boys’ mutual antipathy grows even after they’re shipwrecked on the wild Alaskan coast, where cooperation is a precondition for survival.

Chris, a gentle, imaginative kid, is easily bullied by boastful, angry Frank, who is burdened by a secret. He belittles Chris and takes for himself the one bed in the derelict cabin that becomes their home. Frank’s savvier about wilderness survival in theory but lacks Chris’ stolid patience to put it in practice. There’s a radio but no batteries. Carefully hoarded matches keep the fire going, but as winter approaches, the last spawning salmon are almost gone. They find boxes containing human skeletons suspended from a tree and stumble across an enormous brown bear. Thursday, the raven Chris befriends and names, comforts him, but Frank becomes jealous of both boy and bird. Reading an adventure novel they find in the cabin, sharing fears, and plotting next steps lead the boys to form a wary, tentative bond that’s severely damaged when Thursday injures Frank. Lawrence doesn’t make it easy on either boy. The immense forest; its wolves, ravens, bears; the night’s shimmering aurora and myriad stars—all of these are majestic but not friendly. Against this vividly realized backdrop, the boys’ connection is tested. However fragile, fractious, flawed, it’s their lifeline.

Unsettling and compelling, a gripping, evocative read. (author’s note) (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-385-73378-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2015


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