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Smiler's bones

by Peter Lerangis

  Print book : Fiction : Juvenile audience  |  1st Orchard books ed

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
A dark event brought to light   (2007-10-01)


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by CarlaG

Grades 5-8. A fictionalized account of a dark event in American history, Smiler’s Bones offers up the grief and loneliness of a young Eskimo boy displaced from Greenland by Robert E. Peary for “scientific observations”. Minik, along with six others from his village, were brought in 1896 to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where all but Minik quickly succumbed to the diseases of their new environment, leaving Minik alone to adjust to a very foreign landscape and unfamiliar customs. First-time novelist Peter Lerangis chooses words carefully to help convey the simple thoughts of a young boy as he tries to construct a new world with fragmented clues. We gradually learn, as Minik did, the truth that was hidden for years about Peary’s motives and the sickening fate of the Eskimos’ remains. We feel the confusion of not knowing who to trust and the anguish of trying to fit in but never really belonging, perceptions that are all too familiar even to today’s adolescents. Lerangis makes short work of Peary’s now-tarnished image, making clear that the explorer brought the Eskimos to America under false pretenses and abandoned them with ill-advised caretakers. The subject matter may be a bit grisly for unsophisticated readers, but as part of a multi-cultural curriculum, an empathetic teacher could help students put the more sensitive aspects into perspective.

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