“Hello, small mammal. Could you step in here for a moment? I’ve got something to show you.”
— The Rat Creatures
I’m usually not into comic books. I mean, I’ve read my share of Superman, like every other kid, but it was never really a big thing for me. When it comes to light summer reading, I’m a much bigger fan of long sci-fi or fantasy epics: Ender’s Game, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. I guess I feel like I just blow through graphics novels too fast. When so much of the action, setting, and characters’ emotions are conveyed through pictures — which I tend to just gloss over, rather than examine and dissect — I usually feel like I didn’t really get the whole experience when I get to the end. (This is totally my fault for being impatient and not stopping to appreciate the artist’s hard work. I am, officially, a Bad Reader of Comic Books).
So when I tell you that I loved BONE by Jeff Smith and you need to read it, realize that I’m not making my recommendation lightly. It takes a really well-written, carefully plotted, extremely ambitious graphic novel to get me excited about the genre at all, and BONE is all of those things.
I couldn’t get into the plot without spoiling some of its great surprises, and I’m afraid if I start talking I wouldn’t be able to stop anyway. So . . . lucky you: SPOILER-FREE BLOG POST! Just know that the story ends up as epic and huge as Lord of the Rings (complete with massive battles, dragon fights, feats of bravery, and so on) without ever getting dry or boring. In fact, BONE is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a while. I’m pretty sure the other riders in my subway cars hated me for the constant chuckling, guffawing, and poorly stifled bursts of laughter, but whatever. Plus it’s got great characters. You’ll love Fone Bone for his courage and his good sense of humor, you’ll die laughing at Smiley Bone’s antics, and you will really, really hate Phoney Bone.
And then there’s the art. In addition to being a great writer, it turns out Jeff Smith is an awesome artist. The drawings are lush and rich, and Jeff somehow manages to give the little 2-foot-tall bones just as much personality in their faces and body language as his human characters have. As the scale of the plot gets bigger and bigger, his drawings start to cover huge landscapes, exotic towns, and raging battles, and he proves that his talent isn’t limited to small, intimate details.
I know all the above probably sounds a lot like a marketing pitch, especially since Scholastic publishes BONE. But trust me — I’ve been saying the same thing to all my friends. This is one of those times where you discover a book, movie, or CD you love so much that you tell everyone you know about it until they politely ask you to shut up. So do yourselves a favor: pick up Out From Boneville, and if you’re not dying to know what happens next at the end, I’ll eat my hat.
So now that I’ve had a graphic novel epiphany . . . is there another one I should read? Let me know in the comments!
— Jack, STACKS Intern