August 29, 2010

Queer Book Review: The Skull of Truth

On one hand, we give high honor to truth. On the other hand, we know the social value of the little white lie, the not-quite true words spoken to spare someone's feelings, or avoid an unnecessary argument.

It's all very confusing.

Which is why I keep writing about it.

-Bruce Coville, The Skull of Truth, A Note from the Author

Bruce Coville is the rare type of author who is not afraid of putting in complex themes or addressing controversial issues in children's literature. His The Skull of Truth is about a boy, Charlie Eggleston, who manages to acquire the skull of truth, which goes by the name of Yorrick. The skull of truth an ancient artifact that forces anyone in it's immediate vicinity to tell the truth and only the truth. For Charlie, Yorrick has a special surprise in store, when he curses Charlie into always telling the truth, even when they are not near to each other.

Charlie, who is a compulsive liar, ends up with a bit of a problem on his hands. He finds himself in humiliated at school when he is forced to tell everyone exactly what he thinks about his classmates. The biggest problem occurs when he ends up being forced to leave Yorrick in the closet next to the dining room during a family gathering. This of course causes all kinds of havoc, particularly when his Uncle is forced to reveal to the whole family that he is really gay. Some good does end up coming out of Yorrick's stay with Charlie, such as when during a public forum Charlie uses Yorrick to force politicians to reveal the full extent of the environmental impact of a proposed construction project. If only getting polititians to tell the truth in real life were this easy...

Coville takes care to show both the upside of telling the truth and the downside, such as when Charlie ends up making a very hurtful comment to a friend who lost their hair while undergoing chemotherapy. Like all of Coville's other works, this one is funny and witty, yet with a touch of pathos to keep it grounded. Highly recommended for all ages who can grasp the ideas that Coville is presenting here.

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