Bone, by Jeff Smith
I’m dedicating my month of November (and perhaps even some of December) to graphic novels, comics, and manga…specifically those you can put in the hands of your nearest Avenger and super hero crazed middle schooler! These are books which I feel tend to get under-utilized, and sometimes even entirely overlooked. My super secret evil plan (which is so secret, in just a moment you’ll forget I ever told you this) is to not only introduce you to a few great graphic novels, etc., for middle graders over the course of the month, but also introduce you to one of the creators, and give you a few sound and well-researched arguments as to why you will hereafter be a champion of the format!
*activates mind wipe of all super secrets*
Kicking it off is the Bone series, by Jeff Smith. Why’d these guys get to go first? Well…no one ever wants to admit they play favorites, but sometimes, that’s exactly the truth. And in this case, I feel my partiality is entirely earned!
The catch will be to somehow give the series an intimate look, while not getting bogged down in the sheer size of the thing. The complete Bone collection in our possession clocks in at well over 1,300 pages! And every one of them is awesome. 🙂 As proof of this awesomeness, when we bought the complete collection for our then tween son (seeking to corrupt him with comic books, of course, and already fans of Bone ourselves) he not only fell head over heels in love, he also took the book on a trip to see his cousins and while there, had it ‘borrowed’ for the duration of the evening by his not-really-a-fantasy-fan girl cousin. She buried her nose in the book and didn’t even come up for ice cream and a movie!
Bone is the story of Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, three cousins who’ve been run out of Boneville and must make their way in the world. The three are as diverse as any characters you’ll ever encounter, with Fone Bone thoroughly lovable, mild-mannered, and utterly sympathetic, Smiley Bone just as big a dweeb as his big goofy smile suggests, and Phoney Bone the worlds greatest conniving swindler. All three of them are in for the adventure of a life time (or three) when they find their way to the Valley, and meet Thorn, Granma, and a parade of other characters. The books often get compared to Tolkien, and on the surface there may seem few similarities…after all, there aren’t any elves or dwarves here, and did I mention the main characters are bones? There’s also a lot more humor. But, the epic feel of the story and the undercurrent of a battle between good and evil in which even small people can make a difference are shared. However, no matter what story Bone gets compared to, it is uniquely its own. After all, when was the last time you read a story in which the plot development of a great cow race laid the framework for a situation that was both adventure, social satire, drop-dead funny, and one slice of a giant saga between good and evil? Plus, requiring that a humanoid bone character dress up in a cow suit? Yeah, only here!
Now, let’s see what Apricot-kitty has to say:
“Do you see this? It’s me sleeping, cause that book was just too much. Too many pictures, too many pages, and too many crazy bits when one or two would have been enough…I mean, really? A dragon AND giant rat creatures? AND an old lady with gray hair who we’re supposed to believe is the tough, flinty-eyed warrior? This book exhausts me.”
I guess I should have mentioned it’s fantasy…but I suppose three of the characters being bones might give that away? It probably is a little weird if you’re not accustomed to reading wild stuff, but the characterization is so stellar that you stop noticing that the Bones are bones pretty quickly. And, the pictures help, of course! In addition to the detailed black and white versions, Scholastic has released the stories in smaller (comic-sized) gorgeous color! I’m afraid on this one, Apricot and I are just going to have to agree to disagree. 😉
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday spotlights, reviews, interviews and giveaways, stop by Shannon Messenger’s blog–and while you’re over there, wish her a happy release day on Everblaze! I know we’ve ordered our copy!