Jeff Smith’s Bone series has been beloved by children, teens, and adults since it first came out in the early 1990s. Scholastic was smart to pick it up as part of their GRAPHIX line, especially since they re-released in it bright, shining color. Fans of the Bone cousins’ fantastic adventures will also want to check out these four companion books which tie in with the series. Two of them–Rose and Tall Tales–contain previously released material, while the other two–the Bone Handbook and the novel Quest for the Spark #1–are new additions to the Bone universe.
Author: Jeff Smith; Artist: Charles Vess
Scholastic/GRAPHIX, August 2009, ISBN 978-0-545-13543-6 (pbk)
140 pages, $10.99 (pbk)
Rose tells the story of Gran’ma Ben when she was still just Princess Rose and her sister was still just Princess Briar. Bone fans will know who both young women become, but new readers can enjoy Rose as an exciting fairy tale, without needing any prior knowledge of the Bone books. Princess Rose’s young emotions are very near the surface and she’s torn between wanting to love her prickly, cold sister and wanting to do what is right by her people. First love and other complications add to the mess. Vess’ art is beautiful in a timeless, romantic way, though he does get a touch more graphic with bloodshed than Smith does when he handles illustration duties. With his muted color palette and his distinctive old-fashioned font, Vess brings the maturity and depth of Rose’s story to the forefront. Not only is this a wonderful addition to the Bone series, it is an enjoyable fantasy in and of itself.
Author: Jeff Smith
Scholastic/GRAPHIX, February 2010, ISBN 978-0-545-21142-0 (pbk)
124 pages, $9.99 (pbk)
For Bone fans who just can’t get enough detail about their favorite series, Scholastic offers the Bone Handbook. Filled with character descriptions, interviews with Jeff Smith and colorist Steve Hamaker, a history of Atheia and the surrounding lands, synopses of the Bone books, and more, the Bone Handbook offers an interesting look at how the Bone series was crafted and the creatures who comprise that world. The character details and book synopses may not be as exciting to readers who have already read and re-read the series, but they are nice references to have, especially if the books are being used in a classroom setting. One nice addition is Mark Crilley’s map of the Valley, which was only available as endpages in the hardcover additions of the Bone books. Unfortunately it is printed fairly small, but at least it was included. Libraries should be aware that there is a Rat Creature papercraft at the end, but it is easy enough to remove it from the book before circulation. (And it would look cute put together and sitting on the reference desk!)
Bone: Tall Tales
Jeff Smith with Tom Sniegoski
Scholastic/GRAPHIX, August 2010, ISBN 978-0-545-14096-6
108 pages, $10.99
Tall Tales was previously published between 1998 and 2000 as Stupid Stupid Rat-tails: the adventures of Big Johnson Bone, Frontier Hero, written by Sniegoski and illustrated by Smith. This compilation includes that story, plus two more about Big Johnson Bone, an additional story about Fone and Phoney Bone, and a story about Smiley leading a troop of Bone Scouts which serves to tie the whole collection together. Tall Tales lacks the seriousness which colored the later volumes of the Bone series, but fans who want to read about Bones other than the titular orphan trio will enjoy this wacky anthology. Plus it is always nice to get more stories which feature the rat creatures, the dumbest bad guys on record. Readers new to the Bone universe will be slightly lost as to who and what the Bones are, but they should still enjoy this folklore romp.
Bone: Quest for the Spark, book one
Author: Tom Sniegoski; Illustrator: Jeff Smith
Scholastic/GRAPHIX, February 2011, ISBN 978-0-545-14101-07(hbk)/978-0-545-14102-4(pbk)
224 pages, $22.99(hbk)/$10.99(pbk)
And with a new year comes a new addition to the world of Bone: a novel! Sniegoski pens the tale of a rag-tag bunch of heroes–the son of a turnip farmer, a family of Bones, a raccoon, a disgraced Veni Yan warrior, a mysterious nature spirit, and two very confused rat creatures (plus a dead squirrel!)–who band together to find the pieces of The Spark. The completed Spark is the only thing which can stop The Nacht, the creature of evil which has overtaken the Dreaming and is starting to invade the waking world as well.
Sniegoski knows Smith’s creation well, having worked on it in the past, so he was an obvious choice to tell this tale. His writing is simple and straightforward in the way that media tie-in books tend to be, without the something extra to bring it up to really top-notch. He gets the major points right though–action, dark (but still kid-friendly) fantasy, and one small creature who must persevere to overcome evil. Here that hero is Tom, a turnip farmer’s son who has always dreamed of greatness. But when greatness finds him, he discovers it is not what he expected it to be. Children will identify with Tom’s struggle to choose between saving the world and fleeing for safety. The other characters are only introduced here, but they seem likely to be compelling each in their own way (yes, even the rat creatures), with the exception of the two Bone children, who are just brats so far. Hopefully they will mature as the trilogy progresses.
Unlike the rest of the Bone series, the novel seems more definitely geared towards children. Parents who have enjoyed the comics with their sons and daughters will appreciate having such a perfect pick for family reading time. Smith’s illustrations are a welcome addition which keeps the novel firmly grounded in the worlds he created. Without a doubt, this one is a must have for libraries.
This review is based in part on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Scholastic/GRAPHIX.