“The ones you hold dear never leave you.”
Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone growing in his yard is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit to 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.
With mystery, adventure, and resilient character, Skeleton Tree is a welcome experience for young readers.
Stanly found a skeleton bone in their backyard, which turns out not just an ordinary bone. The skeleton is growing from the ground like an actual tree with life of its own. Stanly thought this discovery will make him win a contest, and a chance to see his father again and travel with him. At first, he intend to keep the bone a secret, but soon without so much choice, he told about the bone to his younger sister, Miren, and his best friend, Jaxon. Even their caretaker Ms. Francine eventually knows about the Skeleton. The only person who isn’t aware about it is Stanly’s mother. For some reason, his mother cannot see the Skeleton, a mystery that Stanly did not understand at first.
Miren get to spend a lot of time with the skeleton, since she’s always at home due to her sickness. Miren seems enjoying her time with the Skeleton, and become friend with him. But Miren’s health condition is not getting better, and Stanley think that the Skeleton is to blame. Is there anything he can do to stop the Skeleton?
For a debut novel, Skeleton Tree is an impressive one. Kim Ventrella successfully delivered a sensitive topic for middle-grade readers with care. Death is inevitable, as an adult that is clear to many if not all of us. But for children, it is not an easy subject to deal with. So putting it out there with this book, give chance to openly discuss the topic. An imaginative story that can be useful for parents and children. With Skeleton Tree, Kim not only creatively and sensitively handle heavy topic, but also manage to be realistic and whimsical at the same time.
Few pages in, readers will see how Stanley taking care of his sister, Miren. Which makes Stanley adorable in my opinion. He tried to understand and even tolerate Miren. He even has Slurpy, an imaginary zombie in Stanley’s head whom he feed all his frustrations and anger.
At a very young age, Stanley is obviously smart and perceptive. He understand his family’s situation – how his mom is trying her best for them, his sister’s health condition, and his missing father. In his own ways he tried to help, like by tolerating his sister, understanding their situation, and trying his best not to add to his mother’s worries.
“She did the best she could, only keeping a whole family together wasn’t supposed to be a one-person job.”
But no matter how he tried to be a good boy, things doesn’t always go to his wishes. At a young age, Stanly learned that sometimes we have to accept the inevitable. Life happens and we have to embrace it.
“Love is a funny thing. Sometimes it is long and slow and rolling. A lazy river of love. Other times, it’s over so fast, you blink and you might miss it. Both things are love, Stanly. Don’t forget that.”
On the whole, Skeleton Tree is a bittersweet story about family, love, loss, and life. It’s a beautiful book that should be introduce to younger readers with parental presence to add more understanding about the important and heavy topic it sensitively delivered. This whimsical book is a welcome addition to the middle-grade shelves.
* This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for my honest opinion about the book.