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Bone by Bone by Bone

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  291 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews

FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN WHITE AND BLACK in 1950s, Tennessee. Tony Johnston draws on her own childhood memories to limn a portrait of a sensitive and compassionate boy fighting for a friendship his father forbids.

David's daddy is determined that his son will grow up to be a doctor like himself. David studies the human bones, and secretly teaches them in turn to his black friend,

Hardcover, 192 pages
Published August 7th 2007 by Roaring Brook Press (first published January 1st 2007)
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Racism, 1950s, Tennessee

This is a beautifully written, heartbreaking book. David Church is nine years old in 1951 and living with his father, grandmother and great-grandmother in a small Tennessee town. In many ways David lives an idyllic life filled with long, lazy days exploring the ponds and caves near his town. At his birth David’s father hung a complete human skeleton by his crib. David learns the names of all the bones and intends, as his father wishes, to become a doctor. There is a very
Nov 05, 2015 Nathan rated it liked it
Bone by Bone by Bone was an interesting book to read. The book takes you under the perspective of a little kid and his struggles through life. His dad is extremely racist and doesn't want him playing with his black friend, Malcolm. While reading the book I thought it was more of meant for younger audiences. Which is a weird combination with all the curse words that show up in this book. The book was fairly interesting and I didn't have a problem reading through it.

The author's usage of vocabula
Apr 11, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing
Awesome book! Shows the perspective of a young white boy in the South during the 50s. His best friend is African-American and he does not yet understand that racism exists in his little Southern town. There are some charming glimpses into childhoods of long ago, but ultimately this book is the boy's realization of how his culture mistreats other human beings simply because of skin color. It's a great book to illustrate to middle schoolers how poisonous racism is.
Feb 21, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it
David and Malcolm are best friends. David's father the doctor does not want his son to be friends with an African American boy, but he knows he cannot keep them apart, so he creates a rule. David can be friends with Malcolm, but he is never allowed to enter the house. If Malcolm even steps leans over the threshold David's daddy will kill him. The narrator describes this time as I have never heard it before, a time of innocence and a time of the most awful meanness. Jim Crowe laws are in full eff ...more
Autumn Stevenson
Nov 02, 2010 Autumn Stevenson rated it really liked it
"Bone by Bone by Bone" adresses the conflict between white and black people in the 1950's. David meets a nice black boy named Malcolm and they become two peas in a pod. Unfortunetly the ignorance of racism gets in the way. David does everything he can to get his father to accept Malcolm, but to no avail. The boys fear the Ku Klux Klan and are forced to exchange notes in code and hide when they wish to meet. Although many static characters in the book are victim to racism, not everyone is and the ...more
Oct 24, 2010 Nathan rated it it was ok
A harsh little novel, wedged uncomfortably in the space between adult and young-adult fiction. While casting the horrors of Jim Crow racism in an eerie and garish light, the plot is thinly realized, as in the most mediocre of children's books. But the lurid parade of horrors makes this an odd pick for anyone who might be suited to its simplistic prose.

The characterization, fortunately, is somewhat more complex, if still heavyhanded. The nuance that Johnson brings to the racist "Daddy" propels m
Martin C.
Dec 16, 2008 Martin C. rated it it was amazing
This story is about a kid, David Church, which one Halloween makes friends with someone, someone who had a darker colored skin. David doesn't realize the dangers of hanging out with him, until his dad prohibits him to enter his home, threatening to shoot him. David and his father have continuous fights over his new friend and end up in something worse than only a "fight". One of the author's techniques is that he describes things very deeply, even the most ordinary of things. He also uses techn ...more
Nov 07, 2010 Lori rated it really liked it
This was one of the best written books I have ever read in terms of writing style. It is just filled with some of the most creative writing that I have ever come across and made the story so enjoyable to read despite the dark period in our history that it depicts. "The holiday that arrives as softly as snow whitening the land, turning even ugly things beautiful." I was a little surprised by the end. I thought that David would go to the northern private school just to get away from his father eve ...more
Dec 22, 2015 Kri'Shonna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, favorites
This was a very heart felt book.! The emotion put behind every chapter as a young boy struggles with the hatred his father has for his Best Friend Malcolm.. This is a very inspiring book. This book has opened the eyes of many & seeing the struggles of 1951 through the eyes of a preteen David Church.. Just wanting equality & his father to love hos colored friend Malcolm, he does the impossible.. I recommend this book to everyone.! I love this book.!! ...more
Mar 14, 2014 Catherine rated it it was amazing
I read this book to my god daughter (11) at bedtimes. She's not a big reader, but we both loved this book. We laughed and cried at what is essentially a horrific story told through the eyes of a child. Somehow that child's view made the story easier to read, but so much more difficult to accept what was happening. I have read a lot of books and this is in my top 10. It should be essential reading for all children.
Shadows n Secrecy
Oct 19, 2014 Shadows n Secrecy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: YA historical fiction lovers who are into the American Civil War
Final rating: 3.75

Good book. Though it wasn't enough to have me abandoning myself in the book. I'm a YA fantasy/paranormal/romance reader, so I'm probably not the best judge of how good this book is.

Do pick it up if:
You love historical fiction
You are into the Americal Civil War

Do not pick it up if:
You find hate history or find it incredibly boring
You do not like reading about white supremacy
You do not like dark stories depicting racism
Ob the savage
Dec 04, 2014 Ob the savage rated it really liked it
page 54. So far this book touches very personal subjects in a way that makes you feel the narrators/main characters pain and emotions. So far the book has talked about how his dad is extremely racist and has banned him from seeing his black best friend named Malcolm , and if he sees him with malcolm, he'll kill malcolm. So they're basically friends in silence.
Carol Baldwin
Apr 05, 2010 Carol Baldwin rated it liked it
In Tennessee in the early 1950's, nine-year-old David suspects that his father, the town's well-respected physician, is a member of the KKK. Despite knowing his father's feelings towards "niggers," David's best friend, Malcom, is black. He knows he can never bring Malcom home because his father has threatened to shoot any black person who comes into the house. The two boys enjoy one another's company until David is picked to be on the neighborhood baseball team while Malcom, clearly the better p ...more
Ginger Stepp
As David’s Uncle Lucas states, “Some men just need to keep ahead by keepin’ a foot on another’s neck”. Set in Tennessee in the 1950s, Johnston writes a classic tale of how children pay for the sins of their parents as David quickly realizes that his father may be a member of the Ku Klux Klan. David’s best friend is Malcolm, a young African-American boy. Malcolm is forbidden in David’s house and their friendship must be a secret one. However, David constantly butts head with his father over this ...more
Melody D.
Jan 02, 2010 Melody D. rated it it was amazing
i really wanted to read a book about segregation and and racism about back then so i choose this book.its about a man who grew up with a dream of being a doctor made for him already,he had no choice but was very excited about it.when he was young even though he understood the boundaries and how blacks were treated back then he had a black best freind they played and laughed and had the most fun together.but then found out and said that they could still be friends but if he was ever on his proper ...more
Mar 08, 2008 Marya rated it liked it
In the Lucifer Effect, the author argues that people can be good or evil depending on the social situation they find themselves in. This book certainly proves the case with the main character's father.

Poof! He's a simple country doctor, doing his best for those friends he grew up with as they lay dying. Poof! He's a good ol' Southern boy, getting drunk as a skunk at a local wedding and shooting up toasters. Poof! He's the good son who respects his grandma and loves his black mammy. Poof! He's a
Aug 17, 2011 zespri rated it really liked it
Bone by bone is aimed at the Young Adult market but deserves to be read more widely.

It is the story of an inter-racial friendship in Tennessee in the 1950's, when such a friendship had to be conducted in secret or not at all.

Racial intolerance is explored through the characters of the two nine year old boys, and a vivid picture of the horror of racism is portrayed for the reader.

Tony Johnson's language and writing style help to make palatable her subject matter, and kept me turning the pages ev
Jul 28, 2008 Sheila rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
This is a powerful book about what it was like to be a kid growing up in the 1950's South with racism and Ku Klux Klan prevalent. 12-year-old David, sees it & lives with it since his father is incredibly racist. But David's good friend is Malcolm, who is smart and funny and black. David's father doesn't stop him from hanging out with David, but under no circumstances would he allow Malcolm to enter their house.
This rule manages to backfire and makes for a surprise if not inevitable ending.
May 27, 2010 Kevin rated it it was amazing
In this book, it is talking about these two boy living in Tennessee during the 1950s. Those two boys are David and Malcolm. They both are best friends. Then one day, David's dad notices they both are friends and David's dad is racist. David's dad tells David that if Malcolm enters the house i will kill him. David's Dad is doing this because Malcolm is black and David is white. Now their friendship is breaking because they both cannot hang out with each other.
I recommend this book to people who
Ms. Heres
I appreciate the honest portrayal of the South in the 1950's. David struggles with his father's racism when he becomes friends with a boy his dad will not allow in the house. At the same time, he admires his dad's work as a doctor and wants to be a doctor too. The conflicting messages he gets from his dad only complicate the relationship and David's understanding of who his dad is.
Juana "Darkness" Duran
Jan 28, 2015 Juana "Darkness" Duran rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I loved this book it was so good it made me cry. Here is a summery of the story: it starts with a little boy named David who just wanted to get his discriminatory father. Along the way he finds a friend who is colored named Malcolm. David's father doesn't take to kindly to that so he sets some impossible rules for David to follow. In the coming days he finds it hard to follow those rules. When Lucas his fathers brother comes to visit and shows David a different world without hate. At the end Dav ...more
Shellie Rich
Oct 05, 2009 Shellie Rich rated it liked it
Sort of like a weaker version of To Kill a Mockingbird, but with a jerky dad. Maybe like To Kill a Mockingbird bred with This Boy's Life. Some nice language and a worthwhile topic, but without the power that it could, with those attributes, have. I really couldn't say why, though. I know it lacked the quirky kidview of Scout and Jem. That might be part of it. Also, though set in the south, it was missing the feeling that great southern lit has that somehow the story was ladled up out of this cen ...more
Jul 17, 2015 Kimberly rated it it was ok
Short, makes you think, but boring and tiring to keep up with.
When David is born, his father hangs an actual human skeleton from his crib so he can begin learning the bones of the body. His father wants him to become a doctor just like him. David quickly begins to learn the bones, and his father. David doesn't like who is father is as a person. He doesn't want to shoot cats just for fun. He wants to be best friends with Malcolmm even though his dad forbids it. However, his father has promised that if Malcolm enters the house, he will shot him. And he does.
May 26, 2008 Susan rated it really liked it
This book tells the story of a boy, race, friendship, family and community in the south with humor and honesty that makes this a compelling read. This book takes readers into the hearts and homes of a community through life, aging, death and cultural traditions. David and Malcom become friends despite the limits of their community. David learns as he grows from 10 to 13 what it means to come of age and choose how he will live. This is a writerly story to share and to discuss to build understandi ...more
Jan 25, 2010 Maria rated it really liked it
Written by an author who grew up in the south with a racist father, this book is the story of a friendship between a white boy and a black boy in the 1950s south. Poignant, its lead characters reflect the confusion of not treating people equally. It is a bit tough to read, but the author apologizes at the beginning by letting the reader know some of what is in the book is language she heard growing up. Much more intense than To Kill a Mockingbird, but the same innocence prevails.
Nov 16, 2009 Penny rated it really liked it
This is a fictional coming of age story based on the author's childhood.
Set in the early 1950's in Tennessee, this is the story of David Church's struggle in understanding and inability to come to terms with the overt racism of his family and members of his community. David's best friend is Malcolm a free spirited Black boy. Dr. Church has warned David that if his friend sets foot in the house, he will be shot. It is an eye opening look at racism.
Apr 02, 2008 Melissa rated it liked it
As a children's librarian I would have a hard time reccommending this book to a child because of the graphic language that is used throughout it. I think we need to learn from the past so history does not repeat itself but this was a tough book for me to read because of the way the father was in the story.

"In 1950s Tennessee, ten-year-old David's racist father refuses to let him associate with his best friend Malcolm, an African American boy."
Valerie Prier
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 19, 2013 Rosie rated it really liked it
I'm really surprised I enjoyed reading this book. It was for english and I was like arghhhhh, I don't want to read this but its message, story line and characters were all well thought out especially cause it was inspired by true events from the authors life.

The end though, that was so sad. Why do books have to have sad endings? I mean, it was happy sad, I dunno it was just sad.

ALl in all it was a very enjoyable read which I enjoyed very much!
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Tony Johnston has written many acclaimed books for young people. She and her husband lived in Mexico for fifteen years, where they raised their children. She now lives in San Marino, California.
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