Bone Talk

David Fickling Bks. Nov. 2019. 272p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338349634.
Gr 5-7–Centering on a small mountain village in the Philippines at the end of the 19th century, this novel is an unparalleled story of one boy’s journey towards manhood and knowledge of the world beyond. Samkad and Little Luki are best friends. They do everything together, from playing tricks on the ancients to rambling through the forests that surround their home. But things are about to change. Samkad has been chosen to become a man, and Luki is jealous. She will never hold a spear or become a warrior because she’s a girl. Yet on the eve of the ceremony, things begin to go terribly wrong. Father hastens away in search of a boy Samkad once knew, and returns with news of the lowlanders, “Americans,” and war. Everything changes, and before long Samkad and Luki must show what they are truly capable of. In a genre full of coming-of-age stories, Gourlay brings a new and authentic voice to the table with this story about native people living in the Philippine mountains prior to the Philippine-American war. For many readers, it may be an unfamiliar period in history, full of rich traditions and practices. Yet these distinct triumphs and tragedies succeed in heightening readers’ empathy for a people devastated by violence and change.
VERDICT This title presents a captivating story about the strength of heritage and community. Likely to do well among young readers interested in untold stories of the past.

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