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The Bones in the Cliff
     

The Bones in the Cliff

3.3 3
by James Stevenson
 

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And day now the big man with the cigar might be arriving on the ferryboat--the man that Pete's father is terrified to see.

So three times a day, when the ferry is due at the island, Pete jumps on his bike and races to see if the big man will get off the boat. In Pete's pocket is a quarter, so he can rush to the telephone and warn his father.

It is not

Overview

And day now the big man with the cigar might be arriving on the ferryboat--the man that Pete's father is terrified to see.

So three times a day, when the ferry is due at the island, Pete jumps on his bike and races to see if the big man will get off the boat. In Pete's pocket is a quarter, so he can rush to the telephone and warn his father.

It is not until almost the end of summer that Pete finds out why his father is so afraid. But in the meantime he has met eleven-year-old Rootie, an old-timer on Cutlass Island, who shows him the island newcomers never see--and who helps him face the danger when it finally arrives.Any day now the big man with the cigar might be arriving on the ferryboat - the man that Pete's father is terrified to see.

So three times a day, when the ferry is due at the island, Pete jumps on his bike and races to see if the big man will get off the boat. In Pete's pocket is a quarter, so he can rush to the telephone and warn his father.

It is not until almost the end of summer that Pete finds out why his father is so afraid. But in the meantime he has met eleven-year-old Rootie, an old-timer on Cutlass Island, who shows him the island newcomers never see - and who helps him face the danger when it finally arrives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The prolific picture book author and illustrator here unveils an utterly gripping first novel. Living on a New England island with his alcoholic father, 11-year-old Pete has strict orders to meet each ferry and search the disembarking crowd for a large, cigar-smoking man; if the man appears, Pete is to call his father. Pete doesn't know exactly what or whom his father is hiding from, but he remembers all too well an incident he witnessed two years earlier, when his father was beaten by two men in the Bronx. Pete's is a dismal, lonely existence: his mother is hospitalized with severe depression, and his father chronically ignores him and sometimes beats him. But the boy's days brighten considerably when he meets Rootie, a spunky girl who takes Pete on a string of diverting adventures. So pleasantly distracting is Rootie's company that the otherwise diligent Pete fails to meet the boat on which the feared man finally arrives. This coincidence aside, Stevenson's novel introduces a believable and sympathetic protagonist caught in a heart-wrenching situation. A number of unanswered questions and several deftly crafted moments of suspense will keep even reluctant readers rapt-and occasionally white-knuckled. Ages 10-up. (May)
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
James Stevenson, better known for picture books, proves that he can do anything. Eleven-year-old Pete is frightened when his new friend Rootie shows him The Bones in the Cliff, but then he's frightened of a lot of things this summer. His father is drinking more and more, Pete has to go to the dock and see every boat that comes in-and if he sees a large man smoking a cigar, he is to call his father immediately. He's not allowed to make any phone calls, or write or receive any letters. Only his friendship with Rootie keeps him from disaster. This is a lively, interesting, mystery just spooky enough for the middle grades. There's a real possibility that everything will come crashing down on Pete's head.
Children's Literature - Deborah Zink Roffino
For moderately accomplished readers, this captivating story in first person carries the reader on a dramatic search for truth. Pete's abusive father is terrified of a big, mysterious stranger who smells like cigars. On the way, battered and weary Pete finds a lasting friendship and a better life.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Pete, 11, lives on an island with his alcoholic father and has been given the chore of watching the ferry landings to spot the man who wants to kill his father. He makes friends with an adventurous girl named Rootie and her grandmother, enjoys a hurricane, worries about his courage, and saves his parent in the nick of time. The book cannot sustain all that is pushed into it. Pete must contend with the underworld, his father's drinking and subsequent rough behavior, not to mention the insecurities of every lonely kid. The settings, both time and place, skip around, from present to past, from Cape Cod to the Bronx. Necessary character development loses out to sudden introductions of dramatic plot twists. The bones of the title are disappointing. Rootie points them out in an early chapter during a bike ride near some eroded cliffs telling him they are human bones. What promise! But they are never mentioned again until the end, in a vague reference alluding to the fact that secrets don't stay covered up. Pete is a sensitive youngster, who readers will readily like. And Rootie sets a good course as the adventurous pal. But there is too much undeveloped and unresolved to give readers the story that wants to break through.-Sally Margolis, Deerfield Public Library, IL
Hazel Rochman
Someone is after Pete's father. That's why they have to move all the time. That's why 11-year-old Pete is alone and afraid. Now they're on Cutlass Island, and Pete must watch the daily ferryboat to see if the hit man is coming. Stevenson is a master of the understated picture book; here, he writes an elemental thriller for middle-grade readers. The inexorable pace makes you read fast to find out what's happening; yet even the most casual phrases of Pete's narrative make you want to stop and think about the place and the people. The island setting is wild and melancholy, dangerous and thrilling, the seething surf "strung with tatters of fog." Slowly Pete's grim family story emerges: his mother is institutionalized for depression; his father is an alcoholic and abusive. As the hit man gets closer, Pete's friendship with a feisty girl on the island gives him hope. She breaks his isolation and helps him find what he wants more than anything--courage.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062029867
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/02/2011
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
128
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Man on the Boat

I used to like to watch the ferryboat come in to the island.

I'd ride my bike up to the meadow by the old Bayview Hotel. From there you could see the ocean spread out, and if you timed it right, there'd be a white dot moving along. As it got nearer, you could see the cars jammed together and, on the decks above, the sightseers in their bright summer clothes.

Then I'd jump on my bike and race down through the meadow to the town, and get to the landing just as the ferry came scraping into the slip, the pilings groaning and screeching. Then the cars and the people would flood off the boat, and it was like a party-people yelling and waving and greeting one another, laughing, hugging, kissing. It made me feel good just to be there.

But that was before my father told me to watch every boat-the ten o'clock, the two o'clock, the six o'clock--to notice every single person getting off, and never to look away, even for a second.

And in my hand there was always a quarter, always, just in case, so that if I saw the man--the crazy man--I could run to the pay phone and call my father.

The Bones in the Cliff. Copyright © by James Stevenson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

James Stevenson is an op-ed contributor to the New York Times. His popular column, "Lost and Found New York," has appeared regularly in the newspaper since 2003. He was on the staff of The New Yorker for more than three decades; his work includes 2,000 cartoons and 80 covers, as well as reporting and fiction. He is also the author and illustrator of over 100 children's books. He lives in Connecticut.

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The Bones in the Cliff 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
You'll be on the edge of your seat during this book. Stevenson's mystery describes a young boy's turbulent life. After much action and suspense, Pete finds friendship and courage.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book contains subject matter that I feel is innappropriate for children. It deals with guns, violence, a hitman, and has very bad language throughout.