Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay

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Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Fascinating and beautifully written story of a boy from a mountain tribe in the Philippine jungle meeting Americans for the first time. Candy Gourlay never lets us down and this is a fine piece of gripping historical fiction for middle graders.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 252 Date: August 2018
Publisher: David Fickling
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1788450171

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Shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award 2018

Samkad is living high up in the mountainous Philippine jungle just as the nineteenth century turns to the twentieth. But Samkad has no idea about any of that. He has never met anyone from outside his own small tribe and his thoughts are focused on becoming a man. He's desperate for the Elders to permit him to join the ranks of the warriors who protect his tribe from their headhunting enemies, even though he knows it will mean leaving his childhood friend Little Luki behind.

But things are about to change in ways Samkad could never have imagined. His manhood ritual goes wrong and Father won't explain why. And then a strange, pale man arrives in the village. This man is an American and he has tales of other Americans coming behind him, bringing war and fire. The American also brings with him a brother that Samkad never knew he had. And before anyone knows it, the village is under multiple threats - from other tribes, from the Americans, and perhaps even from the march of time itself...

... will Samkad become a man? Will Little Luki avoid becoming a woman? And will the tribe survive an American invasion?

Candy Gourlay is such an accomplished writer. She sticks to the narrative so her stories are always engaging and keep you eagerly turning the pages. Her research is impeccable and expertly blended into the story so that it never feels like a lesson. The characters she creates are always utterly credible and you take a genuinely vicarious journey along with them. The blurb on the back of my review copy of Bone Talk says that the stories that stay with you are often the ones that take you somewhere completely outside your everyday life... but that make you believe utterly in the truth of what you are reading and I think this perfectly describes Bone Talk. It's a gripping adventure story and a fascinating piece of historical fiction but you never, ever forget that it's the story of Samkad, a boy you believe could be your friend.

I knew nothing of the invasion of the Philippines by the United States at the end of the nineteenth century. And I knew precious little about the people of the mountain tribes whose lives were so affected by this war. Samkad's story has awoken my curiosity and I am determined to find out more. Bone Talk will appeal to middle grade readers who enjoy adventure stories and finding out about worlds outside their own, and also to any reader - even the grown up ones, like me - who appreciate a writer in the full flow of their talent.

Highly recommended.

You should read more from Candy Gourlay! Try Shine, a sad and beautiful story with ghosts-that-aren't-really-ghosts and monsters-that-aren't-really-monsters and a central character you'll fall in love with.

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Buy Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay at


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