The Skull of Truth

The Skull of Truth (School & Library Binding) - Bruce Coville

My first Magic Shop book, I was drawn in by the much more serious hardcover jacket art. I didn't remember much of the book before I reread it this past weekend with the other's, I remember feeling scandalized by the fact that Charlie stole the Skull from the shop. Whoa! hard-boiled read ahead!

I completely forgot everything about this book other than that Charlie - and anyone else near the skull - have to tell the truth. Turns out this is a very issue-heavy book for Coville, with an environmentalist angle, a friend who has cancer, and among other family truths revealed at a hysterical family dinner, Charlie finds out his uncle's roommate is his boyfriend. There are few of the easy consequences that usually come up in stories where people are forced to tell the absolute truth. What family or community is going to escape unscathed from that? The Truth can be a dangerous thing. Coville shows multiple sides of the issues, the many positive results of a local swamp being drained for construction for example, and Charlie's conflicted reaction to his uncle is well done, expressing the worries someone his age would have.

The best part of this book is Charlie's response to a friend who returns after a long absence without any hair. I remember my elementary school's collective hush of curiosity and horror when a girl returned to school with permission to wear a baseball cap indoors because she'd lost her hair to chemo. Because of the Skull, Yorick from 'Hamlet' actually, Charlie blurts out a hurtful remark and must make amends somehow.

Coville overreaches himself in this book, even though he handled the issues very well and in a way all kids can understand, which is the important thing. The story is sweet if not as funny, but by combining three big issues in such a short book it felt underdeveloped.


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