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The Skull of Truth: : A Magic Shop Book    by Bruce Coville & Gary A. Lippincott order for
Skull of Truth
by Bruce Coville
Order:  USA  Can
Magic Carpet, 2007 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Bruce Coville was an author I always enjoyed as a child for his fun sense of fantasy mixed with just a little spookiness. Now, reading his books aimed at middle-schoolers as an adult, I can see just how complex some of his works really are. The Skull of Truth is one such story.

Charlie Eggleston has a major problem with the truth he cannot stop lying. One day, a lie results in his being forced into his beloved town swamp by the class bully. Trying to find a different way out to avoid getting clobbered, he stumbles upon Mr. Elives' mysterious magic shop. Inside, he finds a fascinating skull which he is told is not for sale. After asking the skull if it would like to come home with him, he finds it doing just that. The skull, Yorick (yes, as in 'Alas poor Yorick ...'), has been cursed however. Now, whenever it is nearby, Charlie must tell nothing but the truth. However, honesty is not really always the best policy, and soon Charlie finds himself the school outcast. Things, though, must get worse before they get better. Yorick's incessant banter is driving Charlie batty, but the worst part is, the curse is getting stronger and soon everyone anywhere near it begins telling the truth and secrets begin emerging. Eventually, Charlie finds a way to use the skull for good, thus ending his time with it.

On the surface, The Skull of Truth is a fun little cautionary tale about a lying boy who learns his lesson. But below that, Coville's underlying message is, 'What is truth, and is it always best?' This is a great question that could lead to an engaging philosophical discussion, even among younger readers. Coville's writing keeps kids interested, even when he heads into deeper waters, such as Charlie coming to terms with his favorite uncle's secret and also the brief narrative Yorick gives of Hamlet. Readers will empathize with Charlie and thus will learn important lessons about truth along with him. This makes The Skull of Truth a great read.

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