Cartoon Books, 2004
Plot Summary: Fone Bone, Smiley Bone, and Phoney Bone are brothers and have been exiled from their home in Boneville. They venture through the desert and fall into a mysterious valley where everything is much different: talking bugs, vicious rat creatures, and human folk like Gran'ma Ben and Thorn populate the area. Fone Bone, the protagonist, has mysterious dreams about a red dragon and a sinister figure later to be dubbed the Lord of the Locusts. Along the way, the three brothers venture through many foreign lands and the greedy Phoney Bone gets them caught in multiple sticky situations. After a journey through the terrifying field of "ghost circles," areas that can take one of the brothers out of existence, they journey to defeat the Lord of the Locusts to save the new mysterous world they've discovered.
Critical Analysis: One of the most impressive aspects of Jeff Smith's epic is his ability to balance humor and drama. The first quarter of the series is almost Disney or Pogo-like, featuring lighthearted physical humor and drawings. Once Smith slowly develops that something sinister is going on in the world, the style is maintained but the story takes on a much more serious tone.
Smith is both the writer and illustrator of Bone, which is quite an accomplishment. His drawings are extremely expressive and exaggerated, drawing inspiration from old cartoons. For example, when someone is surprised, his or her jaw will literally drop to the floor. Smith allows words to illustrate expressiveness, sometimes scribbling exclamations in black.
Bone is also full of allusions and references. Foney Bone is constantly having dreams about Moby Dick, his favorite book. One scene has Foney Bone sailing a ship as a part of a grand adventure and the red dragon of his dreams replaces the whale. This scene parallels the rest of the book and was very well done.
Reader's Annotation: The three Bone brothers have been exiled from home and are starting an epic adventure full of dragons, rat creatures, a giant cat, and more!
Author Information: Jeff Smith started his career as an animator for commercials and quit. He started his own independent comics publisher Cartoon Books and self-published the entirety of Bone over the course of ten years. He has won multiple Eisner Awards and is currently working on a more adult focused graphic novel called RASL.
Genre: fantasy, graphic novel, adventure
Curriculum Ties: N/A
Reading level: 10 to adult
Challenge Issues: N/A
Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.
Why I included this title: I have yet to meet anyone that did not love the Bone series after reading it. Smith has struck an amazing balance in that the series appeals to all ages and genders. I thoroughly enjoyed the humor mixed with the epic adventure fantasy and I'd recommend it to anyone.