Monday, 24 May 2010

Bone by Bone by Bone, by Tony Johnston

January 2010, Frances Lincoln
208 pages, Paperback
Review Copy

Children's, 11+, Cultural

Cushions: 3
Daggers: 3 (includes prejudice)
Tears: 4
Nayuleska's recommended reading:♥♥♥♥♥

Summary from Frances Lincoln

Malcolm and I could no more be separated than green from grass. My daddy had forbidden me to play with him, on account of his being coloured. Though little by little I came to understand the barriers between Negroes and white folks, back then I knew of no rule about two boys not being friends.

The most important thing in David’s life is his friendship with Malcolm. In a secret ceremony in a cave they even become blood brothers.

But this is 1950s Tennessee, and Malcolm is black. One day David’s fiercely racist father lays down a terrible threat. If Malcolm ever enters their home, he will kill him. David tries to change his daddy’s mind, but what will happen if Malcolm ever crosses the line?

A powerful and haunting book, countering the horror of racial hatred with a lyrical tribute to childhood friendship.

There's a good reason why To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is mentioned in reference to Bone by Bone by Bone. It is a modern book on a similar vein, which I believe should, in time, become a classic.

Living in our modern, multicultural world, I mix with people of different races without thought. I don't think about the colour of someone's skin. Everyone is human, a person. Everyone is equal. Unfortunately, in David's era, there is racial discrimination against coloured people. David doesn't see the big deal. He, like so many other children, doesn't care what colour Malcolm is. Malcolm is his friend. That's all that matters. That's all that should matter.

Unfortunately, his father and a lot of adults don't share his sensible world view. David is lucky in that although Malcolm isn't allowed inside his house, he can still play with Malcolm outside. Both of them want to find the arm that's hiding in a neighbour's house. I'm not kidding. A real arm. This has them performing lots of chores for the neighbour. By the time they get to see their prize both their lives have changed.

David's father has his life planned out for him, naturally it excludes Malcolm. He preens David for a life in medicine. The question is, will David reach that high flying medical career that his father sees in his future? Or will he take on board the hatred he sees around him, and forge his own path?

This is a story where friendship is held close to David's heart. Saying you'll be friends with someone forever is a big commitment. David has to choose between his family and his friend. That's a big decision to make for anyone, but an enormous one for a young teenager who has very few people to support him in life.

With the strength of writing and the content of the book, I feel this is one that could be studied in classrooms.

If you liked this, try Mahtab's Story by Libby Gleeson

1 comment:

Clarissa Draper said...

Sounds like a great book. I will look into it further. Family vs. Friends, sounds poignant.