Thursday, January 17, 2008


COLORS: Steve Hamaker
PUBLISHER: Graphix (Imprint of Scholastic)
GENRE: Fantasy

FORMAT: Trade paperback
PAGES: Over 1,300 pages
COLOR: Full color

(Synopses of books 1-6 come from the Graphix website.)

Book 1 – Out from Boneville
The three Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone, are run out of Boneville. They become separated and find themselves alone in the uncharted desert, and each manage to make their way into a forest inhabited by strange creatures. There the adventures begin! Kids and adults alike will immensely enjoy this fantasy-humor comic adventure.

Book 2 – The Great Cow Race
After visiting the village of Barrelhaven, Fone Bone and his cousins plan to return home. But then Phoney decides to go after one more get-rich-quick opportunity during the town's annual Great Cow Race and, of course, fails disastrously. Just when it seems they'll finally make it home, ominous signs appear that a war is brewing. Can Fone help his friends defend their territory?

Book 3 – Eyes of the Storm
Lucius, Smiley, and Phoney survive an attack by the rat creatures and return safely to Lucius' tavern in Barrelhaven. Phoney, desperate to win a bet with Lucius, stokes the townspeople's fear of dragons and boasts that he is a professional dragonslayer.
Back at the farm, Fone Bone and Thorn are troubled by strange dreams, and Gran'ma Ben's reaction to them is stranger still: She reveals long-kept secrets and warns of great danger. Thorn, Fone Bone, and Gran'ma Ben may have to leave the farm forever.

Book 4 – The Dragonslayer
Fone Bone confronts a host of dangers in Book 4 of the BONE saga, "The Dragonslayer". He and Gran'ma Ben and Thorn have a terrifying encounter with Kingdok, ruler of the rat creatures. The Hooded One is inciting his army to full-scale war. Someone is continuing to haunt Thorn in her dreams. And then wise Gran'ma Ben disappears.
To make matters worse, Phoney Bone has hoodwinked the townspeople into believing that he is a mighty dragonslayer. When he actually does catch the Red Dragon — much to his surprise — he must face up to his promise: to slay the dragon at sunrise. 

Book 5 – Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Shore
Fone and Smiley Bone strike out into the wilderness to return a lost rat creature cub to the mountains. It doesn't take long before they run smack into Rock Jaw, "Master of the Eastern Border," an enormous mountain lion with a none-too-friendly disposition. Life gets even more complicated when they befriend a group of baby animals who are being orphaned by rat creature attacks. Everything comes to a head in an earth-shattering clash between Rock Jaw and Kingdok, the leader of the rat creatures.

Book 6 – Old Man’s Cave
As war spreads through the valley, the Bone cousins join Gran'ma Ben and Lucius at Old Man's Cave to make a stand against the rat creatures, but not everything goes as planned. By the end of the book, Phoney Bone is strapped to a stone altar and about to be sacrificed; Thorn is lying lifeless nearby; and the rumblings of an earthquake suggest that the Lord of the Locusts is about to be released. Fone and Smiley Bone must do something drastic to save their friends.

(The rest of the synopses were unavailable online, so they were written by me.)

Book 7 – Ghost Circles
The mysterious Ghost Circles start showing up creating voids in the world. Thorn, the Bones, and Gran’ma head for the ancient city of Atheia, while battling rat creatures, The Hooded One, and Rock Jaw are on the way. The townsfolk, with the help of Lucius, resist the leadership of the stick-eaters.

Book 8 – Treasure Hunters
Thorn and company make it to Atheia and right off the bat, Phoney is plotting to find and make off with the local treasure, which has been hidden by the town leader. Gran’ma reconnects with an old friend and together they plan a coup to take back the city and restore power to the rightful heirs.

Book 9 – Crown of Horns
This is the final installment of the Bone series. The Hooded One and her army make it to Atheia and battle ensues. Thorn finally understands her role and seeks her own path to save the people, aided by a few friends. Things get pretty hairy and … well you will just have to read it for yourself.

I can sum up this review in three words: Bone is bad. (bad, of course, meaning “good”.) In Bone’s case it could also mean great. Rarely do we find a comic opus for children, but Bone is it. The characters are well developed, well thought out, are expertly crafted. They are flawed and confused, but find their own path in the end. Smith takes great care with his craft, making sure the drive for the story remains squarely on the characters rather than action. Ultimately, that is what makes BONE great. It is not just a comic action-adventure saga, but a wonderful story which happens to be told with sequential art.

The art is a nice compromise between realistic and cartoon illustrations. The panels flow and help drive the story. It is amazingly how much emotion that Smith is able to create with his characters, especially the Bone cousins. Beautiful.

Since I started writing reviews for using graphic novels in the classroom I have heard nothing but praise for BONE, but something kept me away. The first printings of BONE were rendered in black and white, and it put me off, which is exactly what I suspect will happen with kids. Then Graphix picked up the book and ran with it, seeing what needed to be done. Now we have the color editions. A smart move to be sure as the title resonates more now than ever before. I have a black and white BONE anthology at home and I have compared the two. For this review, the last three chapters of the series were read using my old black and white anthology. The color made all the difference for me, as it will for children.

My Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Grades 6-9 and Ages 8-12
Publisher’s Interest Level: 3-7
Comics in the Classroom: Ages 8 and older

Lexile: 360
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.6

Scholastic’s imprint, Graphix, rated this epic for grades 6-9. However, another article on scholastic had it rated for ages 8-12. It is a complex yarn with multiple story lines and an important history. The text is not dumbed down nor the characters squeaky clean. Yet, I cannot help wondering why the middle school rating. I think BONE is appropriate for kids younger than sixth grade. If second and third graders can read HARRY POTTER and SPIDER-MAN – and they do – then they can and should read BONE.

BONE is a fantasy graphic novel with some mild violence, creatures, and magic. If you like HARRY POTTER or THE HOBBIT, then this is right up your alley. If you object to those same titles, then you may object to BONE too.

Comprised of more than 1,300 pages, BONE is an epic graphic novel for kids. It can used for so many things. I could go on and on about how to use BONE in the classroom, but Graphix has done that for me. That’s right. Graphix has produced a guide for teachers and librarians using BONE called “Using Graphic Novels with Children and Teens”. This piece explores how BONE compares to classical mythology, as well as the allusions to American literature and film. It also outlines how to read comics and even makes the case for comics to be used in classrooms.


At the time of this publication, books 1-6 were available, but books 7-9 were still in production. I read all 6 of the first books from Scholastic, then I finished the story from an older, black and white anthology, previously published. The story and art is the same; the format and color are different.

Highly Recommended
Get these books for your classroom and promote them with your students. When you buy them, be sure to purchase the versions from Graphix because they are in color and students will be more attracted and willing to read them, especially considering the huge amount of pages. The nice thing about the Graphix editions is that they are split up into nine different books, rather than one anthology, making the series less intimidating and easier to hold.

No comments: