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Reading the Bones Teachers' Guide

Dundurn Teachers' Guide

by Gina McMurchy-Barber & Ann M. da Mota

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mysteries & detective stories
published: 2012
publisher: Dundurn
Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
9 to 12
4 to 7
Reading age:
9 to 12
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Short-listed for the 2009 Silver Birch Award, commended for the 2009 Best Books for Kids & Teens
Due to circumstances beyond her control, 12-year-old Peggy Henderson has to move to the quiet town of Crescent Beach, British Columbia, to live with her aunt and uncle. Without a father and separated from her mother, who’s looking for work, Peggy feels her unhappiness increasing until the day she and her uncle start digging a pond in the backyard and she realizes the rock she’s been trying to pry from the ground is really a human skull.
Peggy eventually learns that her home and the entire seaside town were built on top of a 5000-year-old Coast Salish fishing village. With the help of an elderly archaeologist, a woman named Eddy, Peggy comes to know the ancient storyteller buried in her yard in a way that few others can – by reading the bones.
As life with her aunt becomes more and more unbearable, Peggy looks to the old Salish man from the past for help and answers.

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Contributor notes

Gina McMurchy-Barber was the recipient of the 2004 Governor General's Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History. Prior to teaching, she majored in archaeologist at Simon Fraser University, studied orangutans in Borneo's jungles with Dr. Birute Galdikas, and led backpack tours to Asia and South America. She lives in Surrey, British Columbia.

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Editorial Reviews

... centers its fascinating - and informative - plot on a middle-schooler who uncovers a human skull in her backyard. With help from an archaeologist, she learns her town was built on top of a 5,000 year-old fishing village.

I think kids should read this book because it is quick, easy-to-read, fun and interesting I enjoyed the variety of personalities in the characters. The pictures that I envisioned were vivid, there was lots of details given. The conclusion left me satisfied and it seemed original.

— Joe, age 13

It's an entertaining read that also manages – in its story twists relating to the potential fate of precious artifacts – to nudge the reader subtly towards an understanding of the importance of modern cultural resource management.

— Black Press

Reading the Bones is an excellent story that shows the importance of the past to the present, but also the importance of learning who you are. Recommended.

— CM Magazine

... it is an interesting read and certainly presents some of the enigmatic allure of archaeology in enticing terms.

— Resource Links
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