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Bone Talk

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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. 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'. We are thrilled to welcome author Candy Gourlay into The Reading Realm today to discuss Bone Talk, Shine, and Is It A Mermaid?

For one, these colonisers' intent and interests can be further fleshed out through a comparison of the objects they gave the Bontocs. What do music and books represent? What are guns for? How powerful are photographs? By bringing these objects in the novel and planting them at well selected spots or parts in the entire narrative, I thought about the ways we were subjugated. They differ in function but were used to colonize just the same. With its vivid description and clear words, the story makes me feel as if I'm on the highlands of Bontok, too. Samkad's journey is told through powerful simplicity and engaging scenes. The story taught me to be more aware of the world outside of my own, to value my family and friends, and to face the challenges that will make me into a better person. "Bone Talk" was an awesome read.When I started writing I wanted to publish picture books. I only started writing novels because it was so hard to break into the picture book world. Is It a Mermaid is a dream come true. Picture books in the UK are published with an eye to the 0 to three year old reader, and publishers make money through translations in other markets … this means many interesting challenges to the storytelling and the story itself. Writing for specific markets, you have to consider so many things as an artist – not just theme and story shape but the emotional capacity of your reader. You also have to take into account that your reader has no experience, no hindsight. This, I think, is what differentiates the young reader from an adult reader. This gripping novel imagines what living in a country on the brink of colonisation might have been like. Told from the point of view of a courageous indigenous boy, the book whisks readers away into a fascinating, unfamiliar world.

Beth Goodyear, The Scotsman ‘Great Reads to Entertain and Inspire DevelopingMinds’. Candy Gourlay is a master storyteller, capable of transporting her readers competelyinto her world … Bone Talk is a richly wrought novel that feels cinematic in scope. Thereader is transported to a different time and place and feels completely engulfed bythe sights, sounds and smells of this lost wilderness. Samkad’s story is told so sensitively, so lightly and so truthfully that you are completely transported (heart in mouth) to another time and world– until Samkad’s concerns are your concerns and you’re with him every step of the way. Candy is an ardent member of the international "kid-lit" organisation, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She is currently serving on the Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Group of the Society of Authors. She lives in London with her family, where she wages war on the snails in her garden. Candy Gourlay once again dazzled me with her humor, wit and storytelling. I literally laughed out loud at one point when she started a chapter with this line, ...no talk of my manhood, after a series of action filled narratives. This is Samkad speaking and there I find the typical teenager. Irrational. Emotional. Impulsive. Self centered. I remember myself at twelve years old during the height of the People Power Revolution. I worried about my grade school graduation. Never mind if tanks and soldiers were moving and marching on EDSA. I need to graduate by March! I also feel like nothing really happened for the majority of this book. There was a slight adventure at the end, and a plot twist that I wasn't expecting, but didn't really satisfy me all too much. I didn't see any message in this book, except maybe "you don't need a cut to be a man" which was kind of a rubbish message.So, go and read the book. Find a copy. Buy or borrow! Do not miss out the wonderful discoveries and insights you can take away from the novel. Over a hundred years ago, a boy named Samkad lives with his tribe in the remote mountains of the Philippines. One day a new boy arrives in the village. He may call himself Samkad’s brother, but he brings news of people called Americans who are coming to ‘civilise’ them and bring war and destruction to Samkad’s home. 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. 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. It had a good plot, a good setting, a good writing style, but the main character "Samkad" was just not connecting with me, somehow. I didn't quite find myself relating to this kid. It didn't bother much to me what was happening as I was following his story. The stakes were somewhat, let's say, not too high for me to care.

It begs the question why our current behaviour towards each other is every man for himself, when for thousands of years the community spirit held everyone together. It was a beautiful thing. 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+. 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.

Rich in the customs of the Bontok culture, with its paddy fields, sacrifices to ancestral spirits, and hunting and fighting with spears and axes, this fully imagines a way of life for which the records are sketchy. It also shows us a moment of change, as two worlds meet, and that it takes more than a ceremony to make a man. Candy Gourlay tells this brilliant adventure story from the point of view of a young Filipino boy from a time and place that most readers will know nothing about– and certainly from a previously unheard voice (most of what is written about the time is by Americans writing as tourists, anthropologists and conquerors). 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.

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