Smiler's Bones
  • Smiler's Bones
  • Smiler's Bones

Smiler's Bones

5.0 3
by Peter Lerangis
     
 

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In 1897, famed explorer Robert Peary took six Eskimos from their homes to be "presented" to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Among the six were a father and son, Qisuk ("Smiler") and Minik. Quickly, they became living, breathing museum exhibits.

Soon, four of the original Eskimos were dead - including Smiler, whose burial was not at all what

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Overview

In 1897, famed explorer Robert Peary took six Eskimos from their homes to be "presented" to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Among the six were a father and son, Qisuk ("Smiler") and Minik. Quickly, they became living, breathing museum exhibits.

Soon, four of the original Eskimos were dead - including Smiler, whose burial was not at all what it appeared to be. One of the survivors returned to Greenland, leaving young Minik to be the only living Polar Eskimo in New York for twelve long years.

This is Minik's story. It is a story of lies and deceptions. It is a story about the price of exploration. It is a story of discovering the truth - and surviving it.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Minik is one of six Eskimos coaxed from their primitive homes by explorer Robert Peary in 1897. Qisuk ("Smiler") is Minik's father who sees the trip to America as an opportunity until they reach their final destination-as part of a living exhibit inside New York's American Museum of Natural History. In slightly more than ninety days' time, four of the six Eskimos, including Smiler, are dead-unable to fight against exposure to American diseases. One returns to Greenland, leaving Minik to survive alone in this completely foreign land. Minik does not speak English, does not understand American ways, has never seen a city, has never used a fork, and has never seen his own reflection in a mirror. Poor Minik is deceived and neglected but is eventually cared for by an adoptive family. Throughout his life, however, he seems to lose, one by one, every person he holds dear. Based on Minik's actual experiences, this wonderful historical fiction adventure tale follows this Eskimo from his departure with Peary through his amazing and bizarre young life to his ultimate return home. Students will be riveted by this story and shocked at the treatment that Minik and his compatriots received. The flashback-flash-forward format might confuse some, but this compelling story will keep readers interested until the last page. It is a recommended purchase for both school and public libraries, especially for those collections in which the nonfiction Give Me My Father's Body: The Life of Minik, the New York Eskimo by Ken Harper (Archway/Pocket, 2001) circulates well. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; JuniorHigh, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2005, Scholastic, 147p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Kimberly Paone
KLIATT
The cover, featuring a small Inuit face peering out soberly, even fearfully, from a fur hood, is perfect for this tale based on the sad experiences of a real-life Inuit boy. In 1897, explorer Robert Peary brought back six Inuit from Greenland to New York City. Minik, who was about seven at the time, and his father, known as Smiler, were among them. Soon, however, four died of consumption, including Smiler, and one returned, leaving only young Minik. This novel opens in Quebec City in 1909, with a distraught 19-year-old Minik planning to commit suicide. We then flash back to his childhood in Greenland and early encounters with Peary, whose exotic ways and handy new weapons win over the native people. Lerangis does a great job of conveying how strange New York City appears to a boy who has never even seen a tree, and how the Inuits are treated as curiosities rather than people. They are housed in the American Museum of Natural History, and when they die their corpses are dissected and their bones mounted, Minik eventually discovers to his horror, instead of being buried accordingly to Inuit custom, as they would have him believe. After his father dies, Minik is brought up by the museum superintendent, Will Wallace. However, eventually Wallace loses his job and Minik loses his home. At the end of the story, he manages to return to Greenland, though an Author's Note reveals that Minik was unable to fit back into his native culture, and returned to the US. He worked in a New Hampshire logging camp and died of the Spanish flu in 1918. He never did recover his father's bones. This historical fiction succeeds in making Minik and his plight come to life, revealing how he was exploited andilluminating a dark corner of history. It's a more sophisticated tale than its brief length might imply, and thoughtful readers will appreciate its message about respecting other cultures and how it feels to belong nowhere. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Scholastic, 160p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In 1897, arctic explorer Robert Peary took six Polar Eskimos to New York City to be part of a living exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. In a series of flashbacks, the youngest "specimen," eight-year-old Minik, tells the tale of his journey to New York and the fate of his father, Qisuk, called "Smiler." The wide-eyed boy experiences candy and circus visits, happily unaware that he is a curio for public display. When his father and three others die of pneumonia, the exhibit is closed and Uncle Will, a benevolent museum curator, becomes his new guardian. Chapters alternate between the naive young Minik and the mature teenager who has trouble coping with the bizarre circumstance of his youth and feelings of isolation. He is devastated to learn that he has been betrayed by Uncle Will, who has allowed Qisuk's skeleton to be macerated and kept in the museum as an artifact, rather than properly buried. The first-person point of view works well as Minik ages, and vivid dreams keep him tied to his family. By juxtaposing chapters, the depressed and cynical teen contrasts sharply with the innocent child brought up in a trusting Eskimo culture. Minik is an unforgettable character, and issues of racism and scientific arrogance will not be lost on readers.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In 1897, explorer Robert Peary brought six Eskimos from their home in Greenland and put them on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Among them were a father and son, Qisuk ("Smiler") and Minik. Four, including Smiler, succumbed to disease, one returned home, and Minik was left alone, stranded in New York City for 12 years. Lerangis offers a hugely fascinating novel, closely based on the true story. The writing is vivid; the description of New York City by a boy who had never even seen a tree before is particularly brilliant. And the inner life of Minik is effectively rendered as he watches everyone he loves become sick and die, sees his father's bones on display at the museum, and becomes miserably alone. Though Lerangis's narrative of shifting time frames and perspectives precludes mounting tension and escalating drama, it's a compelling and important story nevertheless. (author's note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 11+)
From the Publisher

SLJ 6/1/05 Gr 5-8 -In 1897, arctic explorer Robert Peary took six Polar Eskimos to New York City to be part of a living exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. In a series of flashbacks, the youngest "specimen," eight-year-old Minik, tells the tale of his journey to New York and the fate of his father, Qisuk, called "Smiler." The wide-eyed boy experiences candy and circus visits, happily unaware that he is a curio for public display. When his father and three others die of pneumonia, the exhibit is closed and Uncle Will, a benevolent museum curator, becomes his new guardian. Chapters alternate between the naive young Minik and the mature teenager who has trouble coping with the bizarre circumstance of his youth and feelings of isolation. He is devastated to learn that he has been betrayed by Uncle Will, who has allowed Qisuk's skeleton to be macerated and kept in the museum as an artifact, rather than properly buried. The first-person point of view works well as Minik ages, and vivid dreams keep him tied to his family. By juxtaposing chapters, the depressed and cynical teen contrasts sharply with the innocent child brought up in a trusting Eskimo culture. Minik is an unforgettable character, and issues of racism and scientific arrogance will not be lost on readers.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School,
Paula Rohrlick (KLIATT Review, May 2005 (Vol. 39, No. 3))
The cover, featuring a small Inuit face peering out soberly, even fearfully, from a fur hood, is perfect for this tale based on the sad experiences of a real-life Inuit boy. In 1897, explorer Robert Peary brought back six Inuit from Greenland to New York City. Minik, who was about seven at the time, and his father, known as Smiler, were among them. Soon, however, four died of consumption, including Smiler, and one returned, leaving only young Minik. This novel opens in Quebec City in 1909, with a distraught 19-year-old Minik planning to commit suicide. We then flash back to his childhood in Greenland and early encounters with Peary, whose exotic ways and handy new weapons win over the native people. Lerangis does a great job of conveying how strange New York City appears to a boy who has never even seen a tree, and how the Inuits are treated as curiosities rather than people. They are housed in the American Museum of Natural History, and when they die their corpses are dissected and their bones mounted, Minik eventually discovers to his horror, instead of being buried accordingly to Inuit custom, as they would have him believe. After his father dies, Minik is brought up by the museum superintendent, Will Wallace. However, eventually Wallace loses his job and Minik loses his home. At the end of the story, he manages to return to Greenland, though an Author's Note reveals that Minik was unable to fit back into his native culture, and returned to the US. He worked in a New Hampshire logging camp and died of the Spanish flu in 1918. He never did recover his father's bones. This historical fiction succeeds in making Minik and his plight come to life, revealing how he was exploited and illuminating a dark corner of history. It's a more sophisticated tale than its brief length might imply, and thoughtful readers will appreciate its message about respecting other cultures and how it feels to belong nowhere. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: JS--Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Scholastic, 160p., $16.95. Ages 12 to 18.
Jennifer Mattson (Booklist, Apr. 1, 2005 (Vol. 101, No. 15))
In this wrenching first novel, based on true events, Lerangis gives voice to Minik, an Eskimo boy who, along with his father and several other villagers, was delivered to New York by Arctic explorer Robert Peary "in the interest of science." First they are put on display at the Museum of Natural History; then consumption strikes: "Four days, four eskimos. Dead, dead, dead, dead." A kind family takes the orphan in, but as he ma

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780439344883
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
02/01/2007
Series:
Apple Signature Edition Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.44(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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