Bones by Steve Jenkins



Jenkins, Steve. Bones: Skeletons and How They Work. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010. ISBN 9780545046510

Plot Summary

Steve Jenkins introduces the bones of the human skeleton, tells how they work, and compares them to the bones and skeletons of several different animals. Some of the bones are shown in actual size.

Critical Analysis

Jenkins’ book about bones and how they work contains no bibliography, notes, or anything else indicating the origin of the information used. The sole indicator of credibility is a thank you to the collection manager of the Department of Mammology at the American Museum of Natural History for consulting on the book. The fact that this authority on mammal information consulted on the book and signed off on it gives the reader reasonable assurance that the book is indeed accurate. In addition, an adult such as a parent, teacher, or librarian with a basic anatomy and biology education can deduce for him or herself that the book is accurate overall. Lastly, the proliferation and award-winning reputation of Steve Jenkins’ non-fiction picture books tells the reader they can rely on the information provided.

The book is organized well with explanatory text at the beginning of each section followed by several illustrations as examples. The illustrations are clearly labeled and the reader does not need to guess where he or she should go next.  The book starts out with a general overview of bones and then proceeds to break down the skeleton into smaller sections. Within each section (arm/hand, leg/feet, support bones, protection bones, heads, bone connections, etc.), Jenkins provides illustrations of several different species, clearly labeled, to compare that particular category of bone. There is no table of contents or index, but there is a title heading of sorts at the beginning of each new section of the skeleton that helps readers orient themselves.

The seemingly smiling human skull on a red background that fills almost the entire cover hooks readers upon first sight. Then the bone colored cut paper collage illustrations on bold, solid colored backgrounds make the book inviting and readable. The random, interesting facts keep the reader engaged and entertained throughout. The illustrations perfectly complement the text and make the subject clear and easy to understand.

Jenkins uses his words effectively to get to the point and captivate readers with random bits of trivia about bones and how they work. He presents the information in a direct manner, using simple language that is not too watered down or too advanced for children to understand. The zeal with which Jenkins writes each book and the volume of informational books he has written demonstrate his passion for sharing information with children. This book from Jenkins provides children with a good amount of solid information, but also allows children to begin exploring this subject more and encourages them to seek more information on the topic as well as to read more of Jenkins’ titles.

This is a great book to share with children who are learning about the skeletal system for the first time in school or for children who are simply interested in bones and how they work. The bold colors and illustrations really help to make the book stand out on a shelf.

Review Excerpts

American Library Association Notable Books for Children

( WON AWARD in 2011 )

Land of Enchantment Book Award


Prairie Pasque Award


“Bones of all shapes and sizes glow like jewels on richly colored backgrounds, allowing readers to pore over each and every nuance of Jenkins’s intricate cut-paper illustrations.” — Horn Book Magazine, 2010

“But the clean design of the intricate skeletons set against solid background colors is striking and provides a wonderful visual introduction to what keeps us all upright. Thoughtful back matter probes deeper into bone-related science concepts.” — Booklist, May 2010

“From the life-sized human skull grinning out from the brick-red cover to a complete skeleton waving goodbye from a gatefold late in the book, bones are given an entertaining and fresh treatment.” — School Library Journal, July 2010


Read other nonfiction books by Steve Jenkins:

  • Actual Size, ISBN 9780547512914
  • What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?, ISBN 9780618997138
  • Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World, ISBN 9780547959078

Read other books about bones and skeletons:

  • Dem Bones (Avenues) by Bob Barner, ISBN 9780811808279
  • Me and My Amazing Body by Joan Sweeney, ISBN 9780375806230

Have students work together to complete a skeleton floor puzzle

Let students pick a favorite animal and have them compare and contrast the bones of that animal and themselves (a human)

Link the book to science lessons by having students label the skeletons of a human and several animals

Image from, accessed March 18, 2015. Cover art by Steve Jenkins.


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