________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 24. . . .February 21, 2014


Bones. (Orca Currents).

John Wilson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
119 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0698-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0710-5 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0699-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0700-6 (epub).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-15.

Review by Beth Wilcox.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy



“This is an exciting time in dinosaur study,” Dr. Bob explains, waving his arms around with enthusiasm. “Amazing discoveries are made every day all around the world—China, Argentina, Africa and even here in Alberta. We’re digging fossil bones out of the rock faster than we can study them. We need all this shelving to store everything until we can get around to examining it. Sometimes, that’s years.”

“But they don’t look like bones,” I say, hoping I don’t sound too stupid. “They’re mostly large white lumps.”

“Great observation!” Dr. Bob exclaims. He slaps a pillow-shaped lump covered in black writing. “The bones are often fragile, and we find them in awkward places—hillsides, cliffs, quarries. And with the short summer work season, the priority is getting specimens dug out and protected. We dig out the bone and the surrounding rock and wrap it in burlap sacking and plaster of Paris. It’s like the case a doctor would put on if you broke your leg. A doctor would treat you the same way we treat dinosaur bones. We’re dinosaur doctors.” Dr. Bob laughs at his own joke.

I force a smile and ask, “So what’s in this one?”


In Bones, John Wilson’s latest book for the “Orca Currents” series and a sequel to the novel Stolen, 15-year-old Sam and his girlfriend Annabel leave Australia for a vacation in Drumheller, AB. Sam and Annabel are in the Dinosaur Capital to see Sam’s mom and to visit the site of a paleontology dig near his mother’s farm, but the two quickly encounter adventure when they discover the underground trade in stolen fossils. Although this novel is a sequel to Stolen, Bones is enjoyable and easy to understand without having read the previous book.

     The novel’s appeal comes from its thrilling storyline and its fascinating descriptions of the world of paleontology. Although Wilson deals with a fictitious dinosaur discovery, he makes paleontology an interesting foundation for his story without stepping too far away from reality. The success of Wilson’s approach to the study of dinosaurs is summarized by the benevolent paleontologist, Dr. Bob, who tells Sam, “It’s not all Jurassic Park, but if we give these bones a story, it helps people relate to what we’re doing.” Bones captures the unique landscape of the badlands in Alberta and the research being done in places like Dinosaur Provincial Park. Readers will be caught up in the fascinating reality of paleontology as much, if not more than, the somewhat less-realistic crime-fighting adventure.

     While the science behind the story is intriguing and believable, the same cannot be said for the notion of Sam and Annabel thwarting international criminals who are intent on stealing a rare fossil. Sam and Annabel have a history of solving mysteries, and, in this case, they set out on an extremely predictable adventure when they realize the danger of theft, pinpoint when the theft is going to occur, identify the thieves and recover stolen fossils without ever using much more than basic logic. It is difficult to believe that, if the fossil is in such danger of theft, the two teenagers are the only ones who are sufficiently concerned. Furthermore, it is stereotypical and equally far-fetched that every suspicious character, including, the man with the sinister eyebrows, the redneck with the mean dog, and the woman who hates teenagers, would be conspiring with the same international criminal the teens met in Australia to steal the fossil. Hence, while the theft storyline is tidy and exciting, it lacks believability.

     As part of “Orca Currents” high interest, low reading level series, the book is very successful at engaging teenage readers. In its treatment of the subject matter, Bones is sure to hook many readers both younger and older than the recommended age range given. The interesting information about dinosaur research woven in the adventure story will capture many young readers and sustain their attention throughout.


Beth Wilcox is a graduate from the MA in Children’s Literature program at the University of British Columbia and is currently teaching in Prince George, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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