Skeleton Keys

Authored by Guy Bass
Illustrated by Pete Williamson
Published by Stripes

Tagged , , , , , ,

Yes, yes, yes! Brilliant. This book has been an absolute joy to read: a swashbuckling, gothic, fantasy with a dash of horror. Quite frankly, this ‘ahem’ year old did need to check behind her back while reading at points. It was fabulous.

Skeleton Keys is the main character in this cleverly named novel. Each of his fingers is a key to somewhere, for example, ‘the Key to a Quick Getaway’ which, alone, had my six-year-old co reader and I hooked from the beginning. As did the ‘IFs’, Imaginary Friends, who provide the impetus for each adventurous stage of the plot.

Since reading, imaginary friends have been fully welcomed back into our family home and spoken about with pride and humour. Guy Bass’ coinage verbalised by SK (Skeleton Keys) is delightfully reminiscent of literary greats as is his turn of phrase which regularly had us doubled over in giggles; not to mention the adventurous nature and effortless comedy of the storytelling.

On a serious note, however, this is a story about loneliness, friendship, loyalty and courage. Any reader who has felt abandoned, misplaced or misunderstood would resonate with the protagonist Ben, a lonely ten-year-old who is regularly relocated by his parents. At the beginning of the book, he finds himself in a coastal town with a Tim Burtonesque landscape. He faces the challenges many children and young people face, and the plot provides a fantastical narrative path reminding the reader of the power of make-believe as a way to make sense of the challenges in the world.

This book is a gift to any classroom. Great fun for the storyteller in all of us: language play, comedy, characterisation and tension-building all present and correct to play with. But also to pay homage to, and explore the relationships with, all the imaginary friends, still hopefully taking pride of place in all our classrooms.

This book is included in The Reading Journey (2020). Our resource for encouraging reading for pleasure. Find out more