Review | Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay

10-year-old Samkad lives with his Father and his village in the Philippines 100 years ago. Life is not always fair and is not always safe, but Samkad is awaiting the day he becomes a man. But then a new boy arrives in the village, bringing someone called an “American” with them, and war is about to come.

I read Bone Talk as I will be teaching it at school, and this book raises a lot of questions that I think will be fascinating to discuss (though they could be tricky too!).

This book is primarily about human rights. The right to life; education; to live freely and without bondage; to be able to live peacefully and practice your own culture and religion without harm, or harming. Human rights come up in conversation a lot nowadays, and Gourlay discusses them very well. This book is therefore also endorsed by Amnesty International.

Aside from that, this book raises issues around censorship, truth, lies, colonialism, and war. Even if you have read a lot about these topics, this book will definitely add a new spin on it. The author’s note writes about how, even though the author is Filipino, she struggled to find resources for this book as there was so much censorship and colonialism. It’s a really dark and tragic part of history, and deserves to be hidden no more.

From a reader’s perspective, this book is wonderfully written. Everything comes to life on the page, even if it is gruesome (and some parts are). Candy Gourlay really has a talent, and I want to explore more works of hers.

The story itself is exciting and full of action. We are never still for much longer, and I found myself having to read back through paragraphs because I had read so fast!

This book is also about family, and what actually makes a family. The other characters in this book grow, just like Samkad, who we see transform from boy to adult. Sometimes in novels, characters just fill their roles, but in Bone Talk we get the feeling that they have lives beyond the page.

All in all, I definitely recommend Bone Talk, for older readers as well as younger ones. It may raise some hard to answer questions, but they are important too.

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