What You Need to Know:|
• Written in 1982, Skinny Bones continues to entertain more than 25 years later.
• The main character, Alex, struggles as an athlete but compensates with his sense of humor.
• Short, with limited descriptive language and easy to read.
• The book is written in the first person, making Alex especially accessible to the reader. They can almost feel what it
is like to be in his shoes.
• For fans of Alex, the fun continues in Almost Starring Skinny Bones.
• Park touches on some of the typical social challenges that a sixth grade boy might face, without including anything
inappropriate for the age group.
Alex Frankovitch is a skinny little sixth grade boy who is lacking in athletic ability but has no shortage of jokes. He worries about being so tiny, hates that he always has to wear a size “small” and brings in a picture of the Lucky Charms guy because that’s what he thinks he’s going to be when he grows up - the size of a leprechaun. So you can see that he has a great, dry sense of humor. His mom is pretty funny too so maybe he gets it from her. The story centers on Alex’s experiences at home and at school and how he interacts with the people in his life. When we first meet him, he’s writing a comical essay on why his cat eats Kitty Fritters. His plan is to enter the essay into a contest to win a spot in the Kitty Fritters television commercials. To give an indication of Alex’s sense of humor, he starts out by explaining that his mom buys Kitty Fritters because they’re cheap and goes on to say that his aunt, a serious cat lover, thinks they taste like rubber, although he hopes she hasn’t actually tasted them herself. You get the idea, right? From there, Alex faces a variety of conflicts with angry parents, grouchy teachers and a cruel classmate, making hilarious jokes and playing wacky baseball along the way.
Although Alex isn’t very good at baseball, the game plays an important role in the story. It is something for him to do with his dad, although he does end up throwing a “bean ball” at him, or at least that’s what he calls it when the ball hits his dad square in the head. He plays the game with his friends and with his enemies, including bully TJ who is constantly challenging Alex. He’s not quite sure why, but he continues to play the game despite the fact that playing seems to highlight his inferiorities. Maybe it makes him stronger? There are some references that date this book to its original pub date of 1982, including baseball players from that era and the old Oscar Mayer bologna commercial. My eight year-old son loved this book, but he did ask me why that was funny. Other than that, Skinny Bones is still relevant almost thirty years after it was first written. In fact, it is sort of refreshing because while Alex is simple in what he has experienced (there’s no cyber bullying, girl trouble or violent video games, although TJ does say some really nasty things) he is surprisingly complex as his character develops. He gets embarrassed, feels like a loser, worries about things, but manages to stay strong and face his problems. He does that by being funny and making jokes, and he does it well.
1982, 112 pages
Books for Boys, Bullying, Friendship, Humor, Identity, School, Self–Awareness/Discovery, Sports
• Are you like Alex? Is he someone with whom you’d like to be friends?
• What do you think of the way he handles the situation with TJ?
• Would the relationship with TJ be different in 2010?
• Is Alex’s relationship with his parents a realistic one?
• Why does Alex make a joke of everything?
• Do you think that Alex is funny?
• Did Alex do the right thing when he left the baseball game after the “booga booga” incident?
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