Amy Sturgis's Reviews > Skeleton Man

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac
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's review
Mar 20, 2012

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bookshelves: native-america, gothic, fantasy, 21st-century, childrens
Read from March 20 to 23, 2012

Joseph Bruchac's imaginative updating of a classic Abenaki legend is by turns scary, wry, and powerful, with commentary on both Native American tradition and contemporary life. When Molly, the young Mohawk heroine, realizes her parents have disappeared, she soldiers on until "the system" hands her over to a man who claims to be her great-uncle, although Molly knows better. Not only is the man not a relative, but he's not even human. He wants to fatten her up so that he can devour her. He's the Skeleton Man, a figure out of the legends of Molly's father's people.

If I'd read this as a young girl, I would've loved every spooky minute of it. Reading it as an adult, I appreciate how Bruchac uses Molly's background and indomitable nature to comment both on the lasting values of Native culture and the more ridiculous side of today's mainstream society. I especially like the credit he gives to brave Molly.

If you imagine Skeleton Man without its Abenaki flavor, you'd have Neil Gaiman's Coraline.

This was a pleasure to read, and I salute Bruchac for making a traditional tale relevant and friendly to new generations, Native and non-Native alike. This is how stories survive.

A few favorite quotes:

"This is your story now," the rabbit continues. "But even though it is your story, you are not safe. You must be brave. Your spirit must still remain strong."
For some reason, that makes me angry. I don't need some furry Oprah Winfrey to tell me I need to get my spiritual act in order.

One whole wall to the left of the desk is taken up with pigeonholes.... Every one has the name of a kid written under it, and in every pigeonhole is a little pill bottle. Ritalin and stuff like that. The kids who need meds have to take their daily pill in Mrs. Rudder's office. There's a water cooler and paper cups, lots of them. On the other wall are some posters about not smoking and not taking drugs. I guess the two walls balance each other out.

Molly, just like me. Except I am not named for some survivor of a shipwreck. I'm named Molly after Molly Brant, a Mohawk warrior woman. "Back during the American Revolution," my mom told me, "one word from Molly Brant went farther than a thousand words from any white man. No one ever got the best of Molly Brant."

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03/20/2012 page 9
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