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The Skeleton Tree
Contributor(s): Lawrence, Iain
ISBN: 038573378X     ISBN-13: 9780385733786
Publisher: Delacorte Pr
    OUR PRICE: $15.30  
Product Type: Hardcover - Other Formats
Published: January 2016
Annotation: Surviving a shipwreck along the Alaskan coast, twelve-year-old Chris struggles to find food and shelter alongside a prickly boy and a friendly raven as the salmon migration ends and dangerous cold weather sets in.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Survival; Fiction.
Wilderness areas; Fiction.
Brothers; Fiction.
BISAC Categories:
- Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure | Survival Stories
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: 2015011779
Lexile Measure: 670
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 4-6, Age 9-11
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Physical Information: 8.75" H x 5.75" W x 1.25" (0.86 lbs) 278 pages
Accelerated Reader Info
Quiz #: 178924
Reading Level: 4.8   Interest Level: Middle Grades   Point Value: 9.0
Scholastic Reading Counts Info
Quiz #: Q67912
Reading Level: 4.2   Interest Level: Grades 6-8   Point Value: 17.0
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Contributor Bio(s): Iain Lawrence grew up moving all over Canada with his family. He worked in logging, fishing, and even as a forest-fire fighter before studying journalism in Vancouver and working at newspapers for ten years. He is the author of fifteen books for young readers, including this one, and has received many accolades, including the Governor General’s Award and the California Young Reader Medal. He lives in the Gulf Islands with his companion, Kristin, and their dog and cat. He invites you to visit him online at

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2016 Fall)
Chris, his "daredevil" uncle, and another boy, Frank, sail down the Alaskan coastline. The boat sinks, Uncle Jack with it, and the boys are left to survive in a rugged world, facing grizzly bears, wolves, and their own prickly relationship. Lawrence's muscular prose is a pleasure to read for the sheer enjoyment of active verbs and lively similes. An emotionally engaging and heart-pounding read.

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2016 #1)
Chris's uncle Jack is a "daredevil" who "can't be happy unless he's facing danger." Nevertheless, Chris's mother allows the boy to go with Jack and another boy, Frank, on a sailing trip down the Alaskan coastline. Sure enough, the boat sinks, Uncle Jack with it, and the boys are left to survive in a rugged world, facing grizzly bears, wolves, and their own prickly relationship. The setting is rooted in the author's own experiences of living and traveling along the coastline of southern Alaska and northern British Columbia. As always, Lawrence's muscular prose (The Wreckers, rev. 7/98; The Convicts, rev. 3/05) is a pleasure to read for the sheer enjoyment of active verbs and lively similes ("the door sagged like a broken arm, swinging in the wind as though trying to close itself"). There are nods to Defoe throughout: Chris befriends a raven he names Thursday and later says, "I was Robinson Crusoe, the castaway boy." Close to the end, a bear attacks, a surprising connection between the boys is revealed, and a "skeleton tree" ends up offering salvation. An emotionally engaging and heart-pounding read. dean schneider Copyright 2014 Horn Book Magazine.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2015 October #1)

The only thing Chris and Frank have in common is that they both know Jack, Chris's daredevil uncle, who wants to take the boys on an adventure a year after Chris's father dies. But Uncle Jack's plan to sail from Alaska to Canada turns treacherous during a storm. Jack is killed, and the boys are stranded on the untamed Alaska coast. From the outset, Frank doesn't seem to like Chris, but they have to work together—combatting hunger, cold, bears, and wolves—to stay alive. During the weeks that follow, Frank's fears, resentments, and traumas come to light, and Chris discovers a secret that will bond them forever. Fans of Hatchet and Lord of the Flies will be drawn to this harrowing survival story from Lawrence (The Winter Pony), which offers psychological suspense and action in equal measure. The boys' exploration of rugged territory and the mysterious "skeleton tree"with coffins in its branches neatly parallels their individual quests to make sense of recent losses and the lives they have left behind. Ages 8–12. Agent: Danielle Egan-Miller and Joanna MacKenzie, Browne & Miller Literary Associates. (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2015 November)

Gr 4–7—After the death of his father, Christopher goes on an extended sailing trip with his beloved Uncle Jack and a mysterious older boy, Frank, who clearly does not like Chris, although the reason is unclear. Then, in a turbulent storm, the boat sinks. Uncle Jack, who had returned to the cabin for flares, goes down with it. The lifeboat with the two boys on board eventually washes ashore in a remote area of Alaska. Finding an abandoned cabin and catching spawning salmon seem to be their only means of survival. Frank is surly and injured, while Chris is naive—almost to the point of helplessness; he is afraid to be in the wilderness but also reluctant to stay with Frank. Although they are drawn together by their circumstances, the bond between the two boys is tenuous. Chris befriends a curious raven who helps him explore their surroundings and offers him true companionship. The skeleton tree and a bear that seems to stalk the characters give the story a dark and foreboding tone. This is not a typical survival tale, and fans of Hatchet may be disappointed, as the boys grow very little as survivalists and there is less adventure. Instead, the focus is on the rocky and evolving relationship between the two boys. Though Frank is cruel and Chris is innocent, readers come to understand that each boy is much more than he appears. VERDICT Fans of Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (HarperCollins, 2001) will find this a similar read.—Patricia Feriano, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD

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