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Children's Fiction Survival Stories

The Skeleton Tree

by (author) Iain Lawrence

Initial publish date
Jan 2017
Survival Stories, General, General
Recommended Age
8 to 12
Recommended Grade
3 to 7
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2017
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Now in paperback! This stark and commercial survival story is a modern-day Hatchet.
Less than 48 hours after twelve-year-old Chris casts off on a trip to sail down the Alaskan coast with his uncle, their boat sinks. The only survivors are Chris and a boy named Frank, who hates Chris immediately. Chris and Frank have no radio, no flares, no food. Suddenly, they've got to find a way to forage, fish and scavenge supplies from the shore. Chris likes the company of a curious friendly raven more than he likes the prickly Frank. But the boys have to get along if they want to survive.
Because as the days get colder, and the salmon migration ends, survival will take more than sheer force of will. There in the wilderness of Kodiak, they discover a bond they didn't expect, and through it, the compassion and teamwork that might truly be the path to rescue.

About the author


  • Nominated, Snow Willow Award
  • Nominated, Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award
  • Short-listed, TD Canadian Children's Literature Award
  • Winner, Sheila A. Egoff Children's Literature Prize
  • Winner, CBC Fan Choice Award
  • Nominated, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award
  • Short-listed, Bolen Books Children's Book Prize

Contributor Notes

IAIN LAWRENCE grew up moving all over Canada with his family. He's worked in logging, fishing, and even as a forest fire fighter, before studying journalism in Vancouver and working at newspapers for ten years. Today, he lives in the Gulf Islands with his companion, Kristin, and their dog and cat. He is the author of fifteen books for young readers, including this one, and has received many accolades, including the Governor General's Award and the California Young Reader Medal. He invites you to visit him online at The author lives in Gabriola Island, British Columbia.

Editorial Reviews

PRAISE FOR The Skeleton Tree:
"The skeleton tree and a bear that seems to stalk the characters give the story a dark and foreboding tone. This is not a typical survival tale . . . the focus is on the rocky and evolving relationship between the two boys. Though Frank is cruel and Chris is innocent, readers come to understand that each boy is much more than he appears. . ." --Starred Rview, School Library Journal
"Fans of Hatchet and Lord of the Flies will be drawn to this harrowing survival story from Lawrence (The Winter Pony), which offers psychological suspense and action in equal measure. The boys' exploration of rugged territory and the mysterious 'skeleton tree' with coffins in its branches neatly parallels their individual quests to make sense of recent losses and the lives they have left behind." --Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

"Unsettling and compelling, a gripping, evocative read." --Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews
"Lawrence's firsthand knowledge of his setting brings lush, exhilarating vibrancy to this excellent survival story." --The Toronto Star

"Readers will anxiously be turning pages to see who survives. With great action and a twist at the end, this book will appeal to mature readers ages 10 to 12." --The Calgary Herald

User Reviews

Surviving a Rescue or a Secret

I enjoy survival stories and have been impressed with the two previous books I've read by this author. The Skeleton Tree lived up to my expectations. Two young boys are sailing down the Alaskan coast with Jack, uncle to one of the boys when a storm hits and tragedy strikes ending with Jack drowning right before his nephew's eyes. The two boys end stranded on the coast of Alaska with a forest behind them and mountains close by. This is a survival story and theirs isn't as tough as some situations can be, but it is realistic. They've landed near a river during salmon season, they find a rough-made cabin that someone had prepared to be there for a while but obviously left in a hurry, and the elder boy is outdoorsy. But the boys know they won't make it through a winter, so they try to prepare. These boy's don't know each other either and therein lies a mystery. The nephew is twelve, the other 15. Frank, the teenager is mean, bossy, a know-it-all and the two never truly have a happy day together as they can't get along with his attitude hanging over everything, but why did Uncle Jack bring them both along. He was going to tell them something before the storm. And Chris is sure Frank knows the answers and maybe that is why he hates him. The dialogue is real between the teens, the situations are intense and one never knows whether rescue or revealing the secret is the ultimate goal of the plot. The ending leaves one pondering about the boys' future and I like that in a book; it helps to make the characters seem more real. Well-written, with a good pace, and a fast page-turner for me. Highly recommended for young teen boys. I must read more of this author.

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