Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Jeff Smith’s The Bone Series (III)

Old Man’s Cave (1998, Book 6)
Ghost Circles (2000, Book 7)
The Treasure Hunters (2001, Book 8 )

Earlier this week I chatted about the the first three books in Jeff Smith’s Bone series (beginning with the wonderful prequel, Rose here) with chat of volumes 3 through 5 here, in which I became a convert.There are no spoilers here, but the names of main characters do appear (which might reveal that they’ve survived earlier scrapes).

Book 6: Old Man’s Cave

“It’s bad, Bone — REAL bad. That’s why I been lookin’ for you…” says Ted. Who is my new favourite character.

Not because he is the bearer of bad news such as this, having seen columns of smoke coming from the forest. But because he is a bug of action.

“All right, I’m goin’. But when this is all over, Granma Ben gonna squish me like a bug for disobeyin’ her.”

A bug with the ability to laugh at his own bug-self. It’s such fun (even amidst the doom and gloom our travelling band faces in this sixth volume of the series).

Well, not all fun. There’s a good bit of explanation which gets a bit philosophical too, as readers start to understand more about the dreaming.

“The dreaming is a great river that flows around us in all directions. When we dream, we peer through a foggy glass into the river and see a world that is connected to all other living things.”

But mostly it’s all about the action and entertainment. And now I want to join the Ted fan club.

Book 7: Ghost Circles

Once you reach a certain point with a series, it’s hard to admit when a particular segment of it doesn’t tickle you. It feels like you’re letting down your new friends.

Nonetheless, I don’t feel too badly admitting that this (like the second volume) isn’t a favourite of mine, because my Buried-in-Print girls love this one. Perhaps it’s the particular kind of humour.

Certainly Bone proves himself to be ever-more Bone-ish, loyal to a fault.

“First you messed with my cousin. Now you’re messin’ with my girl! Let’s go– RIGHT NOW!”

And there’s lots more adventuring. Which often requires taking the long way around.

“We can’t go straight through to Atheia because of the ghost circles. But Thorn has found a path to the east. It’s a longer way around, but it’ll get us there.”

And there’s a hint of irony, which is what carries me through, alongside my attachment to familiar characters.

Smiley: “Cheer up, everybody, we’re on our way now and nothin’ can stop us.”

But of course lots of things do….

Book 8: Treasure Hunters

This is my second favourite of the Bone books. First, it seems as though there are more scenic shifts; readers travel with a variety of characters episodically, which increases the tension and helps create the sense of a wider world surrounding our small favoured band of travellers.

Some of the frames are stuffed with action. (I never though that I would enjoy a graphic novel where entire frames are filled with…well, there are two, for example: “Wap! Wap! Wap! Wap! Oof! Crack! Wappity! Thud! Pow! Thump! Wak! Smak!” But not only am I enjoying it, but laughing out loud at the few words actually spoken amidst this cacophony.)

Some are deliberately empty and still. As when one character ventures out into danger, and the frames expand into unremarkable and barren terrain. “Follow these tracks — or stumble through the ghost circles on your own. Take your pick.”

Some are outwardly philosophical and take serious aim at world-building. We learn a lot from Treasure Hunters. Little stuff, like about Mim, the First Dragon. “She is the creator and destroyer … you cannot have life without death. The two are always together.”

And big stuff, too.

Particularly, what is the Crown of Horns.

And how to make blank sandwiches. (A copy of these instructions now lives on our fridge door. What can I say, it’s a complicated recipe.)

“Sit down, sit down! We’re having blank sandwiches.”
“Blank sandwiches?”
“First, we cut a slice of bread — and remove the crusts…watch it! It’s kinda tricky! There. Now hold your bread like this…now put ‘em together and you have a blank sandwich.”

Don’t you want one right this minute?

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