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The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence

The Skeleton Tree

by Iain Lawrence

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In the tragic year Chris lost his father, he finds himself in the midst of more loss and confusion. This book is good for dealing with death, tragedy, fear and finding friendship in difficult times. ( )
  AnnaBailey | Apr 10, 2017 |
Iain Lawrence is an imaginative and pithy writer. Typically he writes dark, well-researched historical novels. This novel is a bit more contemporary, but uses as background a significant recent event, the tsunami which hit Japan in 2011. It is less dark than typical, probably because of its contemporary setting and its characters, two well-off, compared to the rest of the world, teenage boys.

Frank really was a typical teenage boy, sullen, obnoxious, self-centred, and not really good at much. Chris, the younger boy, was far more interesting, yet far less believable. ( )
  themulhern | Apr 6, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It’s been a year since the death of 12-year-old Chris’ father when his Uncle Jack invites him on a sailing adventure from Kodiak Alaska to Vancouver, British Columbia. Chris’ excitement is curtailed somewhat when he finds out that they are sharing the adventure with Frank a sullen sarcastic 15-year-old who Chris has never met. When they hit a storm, the boat sinks, Jack is killed, and Chris and Frank find themselves stranded on the coast of Alaska without any provisions or means to contact help.

Despite Frank’s clear and seemingly constant animosity towards Chris, the two are forced to work together to either find a way to civilization or, if worse comes to worst, shelter and a food supply to allow them to survive the brutal winter ahead. Fortunately, they discover a derelict cabin and, with the salmon spawning in a river nearby, they have a food supply at least for a while. They also discover a tree with several coffins suspended in its branches, the skeleton tree of the title.

Frank seems to know a great deal about survival at least in theory but lacks the patience to carry through with his many plans whether it is creating a fire by rubbing sticks together or building a raft. He also displays a kind of daredevil attitude which can be dangerous especially in their encounters with an aggressive grizzly. Chris, the narrator of this tale, is much more patient and thoughtful but unfortunately has never been taught any survival skills. This lack plus Frank’s belittling makes him feel even more lonely until he befriends a raven he names Thursday who provides him with comfort but who just adds to Frank’s resentment and jealousy. Chris is dependent on Frank’s skills but, when an accident leaves Frank extremely ill, he must set out on his own to try to find help.

The Skeleton Tree by author Iain Lawrence is one wild ride of an adventure story. Pitting the two young protagonists against the wild Alaskan wilderness keeps the action and suspense racked up while allowing for growth as the two must learn to work together. The wilderness itself as portrayed by Lawrence is beautiful and beautifully realized – this is nature at its most majestic and most dangerous. The story and the characters are complex and compelling and make the reader care about the outcome.

But this is not just a simple adventure tale. It is also about family, grief, the need for forgiveness and to let go of old fears and resentments if one is to move forward to discover one’s own story. The book is aimed at a middle grade audience but it has enough happening to appeal to any age. ( )
  lostinalibrary | Jun 9, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book as an early review copy. The story was alright but I wish the big secret was revealed a bit earlier. I thought the boys were not acting properly to save themselves but then again how are adolescent boys supposed to react in such a situation. The story reminded me of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. ( )
  KarenAJeff | May 29, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I admit that I found this book to be a tough read. I'm not against the book, I just don't like this particular format (survival in the woods, teenage angst etc.,) I have read several versions before (working as I do in a school library), so this was a bit tedious for me. I liked the main protagonist, despised the secondary character, and was relieved when the story was over because that kind of antagonism made me feel nauseous. Which speaks well for what the author was trying to do. ( )
  kpolhuis | May 27, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038573378X, Hardcover)

Award-winning author Iain Lawrence presents this modern-day adventure and classic in the making, in the vein of The Call of the Wild, Hatchet, and The Cay.
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.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 21 Aug 2015 02:43:39 -0400)

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