Neil and Mike have been telling me to read Bone for the better part of a year. I was deterred mostly by its gargantuan size and the fact it never seemed to be just the right time to sit down and absorb it. Whenever something has that much hype surrounding it, it’s hard for your expectations not to be high. But Bone managed to exceed them.
I read the entire graphic novel series in just a few sittings and have come to this conclusion: Jeff Smith is entirely too talented. He is a gifted artist, bringing the world of the valley to life in stunning detail. Then, of course, there is the plot, which is wide, arcing, and mesmerizing. Finally, there is the humor. The dialogue throughout Bone is quite good, but the humorous moments (frequent throughout) are some of my absolute favorites. “Stupid, stupid, rat creatures” made me laugh so hard. The use of repetition was also very effective. Jeff Smith may be too talented, but I am certainly glad that he is.
The Bone series follows the adventures and exploits of the Bone cousins: Fone Bone (our main, endearing protagonist, champion of all that is good and moral), Smiley Bone (the often dopey, but fiercely loyal and delightfully funny), and Phoney Bone (the exploiter, con man, who’s kind of a dick). The Bones are adorable, little Bone creatures. After being run out of Boneville by a mob of angry citizens after one of Phoney Bone’s disastrous schemes, the Bone boys become lost and wind up in a mysterious valley utterly different from the world they came from.
Boneville seems to be a place similar to the modern world with trademarks, modern currency, giant balloons, and other luxuries. The Valley is home to animals that can talk, strange, murderous rat creatures, dragons, and a simpler people that exchange goods and services through goods and livestock (money = literal eggs, much to Phoney’s dismay). There is also an enchanting magic to the place. Fone Bone falls in with the beautiful Thorn and her Grandma Ben, and a series of strange events begin to unfold, starting with the interest of the rat creatures and their hooded leader in the one who bears the star, a clear allusion to the greedy Phoney Bone.
It is a heart warming tale that builds slowly (the real meat of the action doesn’t take off until around the third book), but every moment is interesting and delightful. The world is so full and cleanly developed, the reader can’t help but feel like it’s a real place, despite the obvious surreality. Fone Bone is a wonderful character to spend time with. He is courageous, honorable, and good. Everything you want out of a main character. And his cousins, while occasionally troublemakers, primarily Phoney’s doing, are amusing and artfully developed, if not occasionally frustrating in their narrowmindedness (here’s looking at you Phoney). Smiley actually grows and develops a lot as we learn more about him throughout the book.
Also all the creatures throughout the book are adorable and extremely well drawn. BARTLEBY. That’s all I’m saying.
I give the whole series two thumbs way, way up and encourage you to read it if you have the time. Its girth appears intimidating, but it doesn’t take much longer to read than your standard 300 page novel.
Until next time!