Monday, March 14, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - THE SKELETON TREE

The tag line on the cover caught my attention: Only the wild survive. I’m a big fan of survival stories so when I saw this at the library, I had to sign it out.

Less than forty-eight hours after twelve-year-old Chris sets off on a sailing trip down the Alaskan coast with his uncle, their boat sinks. The only survivors are Chris and a boy named Frank, who hates Chris immediately. Chris and Frank have no radio, no flares, no food. Suddenly, they’ve got to forage, fish, and scavenge the shore for supplies. Chris likes the company of a curious, friendly raven more than he likes the prickly Frank. But the boys have to get along if they want to survive.

Because as the days get colder and the salmon migration ends, survival will take more than sheer force of will. Eventually, in the wilderness of Alaska, the boys discover an improbable bond—and the compassion that might truly be the path to rescue.

The Skeleton Tree was written by Iain Lawrence and published by Tundra Books (a division of Random House) in 2016.

My Take:

There’s lots of action in this story, starting from the beginning where the boys are shipwrecked. It was interesting how Frank knew more about managing in the wilderness than the main character Chris, who was actually much more likeable. Even though there was tension due to the challenges of surviving in the wilds, much of the book is actually about the relationship between the boys. I really liked the raven, Thursday, and found the slight supernatural elements related to it and the skeleton tree interesting and unique for this type of story.  

From a writer’s perspective, I liked the authentic details about the wilderness that the author embedded in the story. They helped to create a strong sense of place. It wasn’t always clear how much time was passing.  

Opening Line:

“When I wake in the night, I’m afraid.”


“I couldn’t believe how I’d tumbled so quickly form an ordinary life into my very worst nightmare.”

“The silence felt awful. I didn’t want to be the first to speak, but I imagined us both being so stubborn that we never talked again.”

“Below me, everything was so black that I could close my eyes and it made no difference. I had found the loneliest place in the world.”

Other Info:

Iain Lawrence has written 15 books for young readers. He worked in logging, fishing and as a forest fire fighter before becoming a journalist and writer. 


  1. I am always intrigued by Alaska. So even though I don't love this type of story, I might have to check it out. Thanks.

  2. I hadn't heard of this book, but I really enjoyed Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Cay. This sounds like the same kind of adventure. Love that they name the raven Thursday. Is it meant to be a nod to Friday in Robinson Crusoe? Clever.

  3. I also love survival books, but this one sounds particularly intriguing because of the antagonism between the two survivors. My boys also like survival books, like My Side of the Mountain. I'll definitely be checking it out!


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