Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella

Updated: Jul 7, 2021


Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit for the Young Discoverer’s Competition. With such a unique find he’s sure to win the grand prize. But, oddly, the bone doesn’t appear in any photos. Even stranger, it seems to be growing into a full skeleton . . . one that only children can see.

There’s just one person who doesn’t find any of this weird—Stanly’s little sister. Mischievous Miren adopts the skeleton as a friend, and soon, the two become inseparable playmates. When Miren starts to grow sick, Stanly suspects that the skeleton is responsible, and does everything in his power to drive the creature away. However, Miren is desperate not to lose her friend, forcing Stanly to question everything he’s ever believed about life, love, and the mysterious forces that connect us.

Some characters grab you and won’t let go.

Nervous Stanly, who worries about his mum, his sister, the absence of his dad, and that skeleton growing in the garden, is one of my favourite characters of my 2021 reads. The way he tries to be a patient older brother and an understanding son, how he deals with his sister’s ever-worsening health - everything about him tugs at my heart. Kim Ventrella created an eminently loveable boy, which is why I flipped the pages with growing trepidation, wondering how he would cope with the inevitable.

Death is never going to go away, and learning how to cope with the death of a loved one will always be a part of the human experience.

I remember reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak when it first came out, and really stopping to think about death as more than a dreaded inevitability. I imagine Skeleton Tree doing for today's middle graders what The Book Thief did for me back then. It is scary, sad and funny in all the right places, but it is also hopeful when hope is needed.

Verdict

A character you want to hug, and a beautifully sweet story about family, friendship, and hope. And yes, it is also about death. But in Skeleton Tree, death is friendlier and a little clutzier than you might imagine. And probably more scared of you than you are of it.



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