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SMILER’S BONES by Peter Lerangis

SMILER’S BONES

By Peter Lerangis

Age Range: 11 & up

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-439-34485-9
Publisher: Scholastic

In 1897, explorer Robert Peary brought six Eskimos from their home in Greenland and put them on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Among them were a father and son, Qisuk (“Smiler”) and Minik. Four, including Smiler, succumbed to disease, one returned home, and Minik was left alone, stranded in New York City for 12 years. Lerangis offers a hugely fascinating novel, closely based on the true story. The writing is vivid; the description of New York City by a boy who had never even seen a tree before is particularly brilliant. And the inner life of Minik is effectively rendered as he watches everyone he loves become sick and die, sees his father’s bones on display at the museum, and becomes miserably alone. Though Lerangis’s narrative of shifting time frames and perspectives precludes mounting tension and escalating drama, it’s a compelling and important story nevertheless. (author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 11+)