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Bone Talk

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Bone Talk is set in the magnificent highlands of the Philippines – a region called the Cordilleras, populated by impressive folk who carved rice fields out of vertiginous mountains and, for three hundred years, repulsed invasions by both Filipino lowlanders and colonizers from Spain.

With the audience knowing exactly how the colonists will treat Samkad and his village, it feels very much like watching a terrible unseen through the gaps between your fingers. It is certainly a novel with a message which makes you question colonialism and the spread of ideologies around the world. This is why I love reading Candy Gourlay. She is capable, with great effect, to show her characters as they are: strong yet flawed, willful but yielding, good and bad. She does so in situations that test these characters. She makes use of images, symbols and metaphors. A music box and a book as gifts from Mister William. A gun and camera as tokens from Colonel Quinlan. This literary technique opens up discussions of a larger scale. Her latest book is Mike Falls Up, illustrated by Carles Ballesteros, a portal fantasy for young readers beginning to explore beyond picture books. She has written a comics biography Illustrated by Tom Knight of the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who happens to be credited with “discovering” the Philippines. Her novel Bone Talk was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Prize in 2019 – it is set in the moment when headhunting tribes in the Philippines come face to face with American invaders. Her picture book, Is It a Mermaid, lushly illustrated by Francesca Chessa, was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Shine a ghost story for teens was shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Book Prize. Her debut Tall Story was listed for 13 prizes including the Waterstones, the Blue Peter and the Branford Boase. It won the Crystal Kite Prize for Europe and the National Book Award in the Philippines.

Years ago in a homestay's balcony overlooking the handsome Maligcong Rice Terraces was when I briefly met the author through my friend innkeeper. Unaware of her penned stories as I had never read one from her before, I intently listened to her share she was on that trip in the process of writing this fiction called Bone Talk, a play on the very town's name we were at, 'Bontoc'. It was such a mixing bowl, churning with people of every colour, every story ever told, every work ever spoken. So easy to dive in, mix in, disappear into that melting pot. No fingers pointing, nothing to hide…’ We follow the story of Samkad, the ten-year-old son of a great warrior in the Bontok tribe who live in the magnificent highlands of the Philippines. It is set during the time of the American Invasion of 1899 and is written with breathtaking sensitivity and skill. Instead of being repulsed by the primitive ways of the tribe we a drawn into the beauty and importance of the spiritual rituals and traditions. We're with Samkad every step of the way as the world he knows, understands and loves is blown apart by the arrival of the Americans. This is the story of a dog. But,ultimately, it's a book about finding out who you are as you grow up. It’s funny, but also deadly serious. A great read.

An examination into the Phillipine-American War that follows a small village and a budding young man, Samkad, who is waiting for the day he will become part of the men-folk.Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books. I loved this book in so many ways. It's diverse, very challenging and really made me think. I feel as if I have lived every moment of the story ... This is a great young-adult read that strikes away from the norm. It certainly shook me from my reading perch as it was enjoyable on so many levels. Read the review What an amazing book. It took six years to write and now it is out in the world - the uncovering of a buried past that will touch the lives of all of us, but be particularly poignant to those from a heritage of colonialism.

I wondered if this reflected your own perceptions of the UK before you moved here from the Phillipines? What was your experience of moving here like? Sure signs that the creative wells are running dry at last, the Captain’s ninth, overstuffed outing both recycles a villain (see Book 4) and offers trendy anti-bullying wish fulfillment.I liked reading this one, but not at first. I was still adjusting a bit, since from reading something like Frankenstein, which is a classic and old kind of style, to something of this category, which falls in the YA and Modern genre, its a huge leap from one place to another, I would say. Bone Talk is the story of Samkad, a young Bontoc boy at the cusp of manhood. His journey towards becoming one is a thrilling and heart breaking adventure since the setting of the novel happened at a time of conflict and change. It is 1899 and the Philippines has entered a war with the United States of America. His village in the Cordilleras is not spared of the cruelty of invaders. Though, the opportunity to learn from a friendly stranger presents itself. This coming of age story has a lot to tell, and teach, about identity, honor, subversion, obedience to customs and traditions and the gray areas in between. I try to all my “pretty” writing done in the morning when I’m still feeling fresh. After that, I lose my focus somewhat and I can do “ugly” writing – I constantly revise my synopsis, I write outlines, sketch out chapters, write things up badly. I left Facebook last Christmas and it has really helped me keep my writing at the centre of the day. I love doing events and school visits but the interruptions really make my writing suffer and I get super tired now. So I’m trying to be more careful about my schedule. Marion Rose, Historical Novel Society. Wonderful and unusual ...Beautifully crafted, this story draws on different spheres – political, social, spiritual and emotional – in the way of a true classic. A truly brilliant read for boys and girls of 10+. Kate Ashton, Suffolk Libraries. I really enjoyed this book. The tale is gripping and the theme is universal: what willyou do when change and responsibility is thrust upon you? Candy Gourlay’s evocativedescriptions of the landscape and atmosphere make you feel as if you are there,walking the paths behind Samkad and Luki.

The horror comes not from the death rituals of the Bontok people, or from the animal sacrifices, or from the tree of bones, but from the monstrosities carried out by the American soldiers.

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On the eve of his coming-of-age ritual, Samkad and his village find themselves on the verge of a changing world. I’ve just finished reading ‘Shine’ and really enjoyed it. It’s full of interesting, complex characters, mystery and cleverly balances the modern world of social media and the internet with myth and legend. How is ‘Bone Talk’ similar to ‘Shine’? How is it different? Ann Giles, Bookwitch. ... areal must-read. While I really, really liked Candy’s first two novels, this rather surpasses them. There is truth in the saying that you should write about what you know, about your place, your country, your people. Read the review Samdak lives with his community, the Bontok, where his life is mapped out. He will become a man, help his community, and marry. However, when he captures, then loses, one of the Mangili, the Bontok’s sworn enemy, he puts the lives of all of his peers at risk. This is where he learns the difference between being a boy and being a man. Jayne Gould, Armadillo. Candy Gourlay wanted to write a story set in her homeland, the story she would haveliked to have been able to read as a child, reflecting its history and culture. She hascertainly achieved her aim, creating this tour de force, a compelling, absorbing tale,which seeks to open minds, ask important questions and bring the diversity of theworld to readers - all things books should do.

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