#151 – The Color of Bones by Tracy Edward Wymer

 5 Stars

From press release:  Twelve year-old Derby Shrewd lives in a divided town.  Lights live on the Northside of the Line, Darks live on the Southside.  Hillside has been that way ever since the Line appeared naturally from the ground, much like a spring welling up from deep inside the earth.

Now the Line controls the town, keeping Hillside separated, zapping those who come near it and killing those who dare cross it.  But when Derby, a Northsider, finds a pile of bones stacked on the Line, he sets out to uncover the person’s identity.  While doing so, he befriends a Southside girl and soon begins to challenge the Line and the town’s rules.  And then, before he can turn back, Derby goes too far.

The Line is electrical, can change shape, and even move from its normal spot.  No one knows for sure where the Line came from, or why it appeared in their town.  They all know crossing the line is suicide, so everyone stays a safe distance away.  Relationships between the two halves of town do not exist.

Derby is a light and lives on the north side of the Line.  One day, while at the park, Derby notices that a perfectly stacked set of bones lay atop the Line.  The skull, on the top of the heap, seems to be watching him, even turning when necessary.  Derby’s twelve-year-old curiosity gets the best of him and he decides he must find out the identity of the bones.

On the south side lives Zora, a dark.  She and Derby meet one day at the park while throwing stones at an old, beat up merry-go-round on the south side of the Line.  Derby’s heart responds to Zora and he looks forward to seeing her, if only from behind a deadly line.

The Mayor of Hillside is planning on building a wall next to the Line so all will be safe.  The mayor does not want Derby falling for the south side girl.  He is afraid his son might try to cross the Line or be injured, as the Line injured him years earlier.

Derby fears he will never see Zora again if the wall goes up.  After the builders have built the first couple of feet of wall, Derby makes a life-changing decision.

I really enjoyed reading The Color of Bones.  It had me hooked and thinking from the first page.  It is easy to say this is a story of racism and the extremes some will go to keep the division of people (the wall).  It is also a story of first-love.  And, one of courage.

What is Derby’s father afraid of, the Line or the people on the opposite side of the Line?  Maybe he is afraid of both.  No one talks across the Line.  Parents discourage it.  Teachers discourage it. Becoming friends with anyone from the opposite side is taboo.  Then Derby meets the girl who’s smile makes his heart thump.

When the mayor has a wall erected, Derby becomes desperate and makes his life-changing decision.  He fears the wall more than he does the Line.  Fighting for change is difficult.  When no one will listen, it becomes harder.  Derby must decide what is most important, his heart or his family and friends.

The Color of Bones has so many discussion points it makes a good tool for social studies teachers.*  Every kid who understands allegories will want to read this book.  It is an enjoyable, entertaining, and engrossing story that will make you think.  I am glad I had the opportunity to read this book.  Mr. Wymer’s debut novel, The Color of Bones, is one of my top middle grade books for 2012.

*A Educator’s Guide can be found on the author’s website.

The Color of Bones

Author:  Tracy Edward Wymer   website
Publisher:  First Pitch Press   website
Release Date:  May 8,2012
ISBN:  978-1-4681-9198-5
Number of Pages:  161
Ages: 9+
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3 thoughts on “#151 – The Color of Bones by Tracy Edward Wymer

  1. Pingback: The Color of Bones by Tracy Edward Wymer | Electrician Dallas

  2. Great review, Sue! I would like to read this book. It sounds like it hits on key points of why people feel divided. We are all one and the same, and that’s an incredibly important message for kids.

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  3. I enjoyed this book. I like the idea, but maybe because I am a young kid, some of it was a bit confusing. I think you’re right that it will make a great book for teachers/parents to discuss with kids 🙂

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