Skeleton Tree

Kim Ventrella

Victoria Assanelli
See more book details

Macmillan Children's Books


When Stanley Stanwright finds a bone poking out of the earth in his back garden, he is determined to take a picture of it and send it to the Young Discoverer's Competition, thinking it will help bring his dad back home. But the bone begins to grow, reaching up out of the ground until it turns into a skeleton – a skeleton with an unusual interest in his unwell younger sister Miren.

As time wears on, Miren's condition worsens, and the only time she is truly at peace is when she is playing with the skeleton. But Stanley is wary of him, especially when he finally manages to get a picture, and spots a scythe at the skeleton's feet. . .

Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella is a whimsical, heartfelt story about a boy who finds a friend in Death with the help of an unusual tree growing in his back garden. With black line illustrations throughout by Victoria Assanelli.

In the media

When white, zombie-obsessed, 12-year-old Stanly discovers a human skeleton growing up from his

backyard—beginning as a single fingertip—he sees opportunity.Photographing and writing about this,

he reasons, may lead to winning the Young Discoverer's Prize, which will bring Dad back from 1,500

miles away, and then his little sister, Miren, might stop getting sicker. This ambitious debut story of

magical thinking keeps a mostly light tone despite the worsening gravity of Miren's health throughout. It

is peppered with whimsical asides and anatomical jokes in addition to homespun tales from Ms.

Francine, part-time cook and child care helper from Kyrgyzstan. Stanly tries to keep his (literally) growing

secret confined to his OCD-diagnosed best friend, Jaxon (who has a "cloud of black hair" but is otherwise

racially unidentified). Miren quickly finds out, but although she can't keep a secret, overworked,

underpaid, and worried Mom is literally unable to see the skeleton, dubbed Princy by Miren. Conversely,

the wise, folkloric Ms. Francine reacts, from the first phalangeal breakthrough, "like she was

remembering something sad and happy all at once." The close-third-person narrative doggedly

expresses Stanly's struggles with conflicting thoughts and emotions—but also keeps action rolling.

Stanly copes well with problems ranging from the mundane (ineffectual cameras) to the extraordinary

(photographing an evasive skeleton) to the heart-wrenching (a gravely ill sister; burdened parents). The

emotional roller coaster of a contemporary white family in crisis, tempered by a touch of magic and a

resilient, likable protagonist.

Kirkus Reviews Kirkus Reviews

This is an amazing book and I would recommend it to people who like family stories and adventure stories.

Jessica Cobbin, age 10 for

Lovely book, showing how a child deals with grief and family problems, filled with fun, adventure, and emotion. I couldn't put it down - a tear jerker, but an amazing book that I will recommend to all.

Stanley, age 10 for

Skeleton Tree is an amazing story for sort hearted readers. I would rate it 10 out of 10 ... It wasn't hard to read and the story grips you so you want to read just one more page no matter where you are.

Isaac East, age 11 for