Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****By These Ten Bones

by Clare B. Dunkle

Reviewed February 5, 2005.
Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2005.  229 pages.
SonderbooksStand-out 2005 (#2, Young Adult Historical Fiction)

I got to read a review copy of Clare Dunkle’s latest book.  I’mgoing to post the review now, since the book is already available topreorderon 

Some travelers come to Maddie’s small highland village.  One isan old drunkard, but another is a young man with haunting eyes who’snotmuch older than she is.  The young man is a wonderfully skilledwoodcarver, but he doesn’t talk to anyone.  The old man gets himselflockedup, and that night Maddie hears something scuffling and searchingoutsideher house.  She throws an iron spade at a black shape in theiropendoorway, and the whole village is wakened by an inhuman shrieking andwailing.

When the men investigate in the early morning light, they find the woodcarver, wounded and torn by some huge animal, and pale andfeverish.  Maddie’s mother tends him over the next days, andMaddie gets him to talk.  In the following weeks, Maddie hasfearful dreams and learns that the carver has a dark secret.  Shemay be able to help him, if she can find the courage.

This book got off to a slow start, beginning with the rich backgroundof the long-ago Highland village.  This background is so detailedand authentic, I’m going to call this book historical fiction ratherthan fantasy fiction.  This is how it would have been if thelegends of werewolves were actually true. 

I decided to read the book aloud to my 10-year-old, and we both enjoyedit.  He especially liked it “because werewolves are cool.”  Iliked the way Maddie had an authentic Catholic perspective, as a girlwould have in Scotland in those days.  The village priest was akind, fatherly figure who could give her advice, although if he hadlearned of the evil, he would have had to destroy it.  She mustdecide what is right within the context of her faith, and that struggleis totally authentic.

A story of the battle between good and evil as it might have reallybeen.

Reviews of other books by Clare B. Dunkle:
The Hollow Kingdom
Close Kin

In the Coils of the Snake
The Sky Inside
The House of Dead Maids
Hope and Other Luxuries
Elena Vanishing

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  Allrights reserved.

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