Jeff Smith’s The Bone Series (I)

Jeff Smith’s Rose (2002, Prequel)
Out from Boneville (1991, Book One)
The Great Cow Race(1993, Book Two) 

Okay, I admit it. I didn’t want to read these. He looks like Caspar the Friendly Ghost, eh?And even though Caspar was one of my favourite characters when I was seven years old, I’m not seven years old. I was pretty sure that this would not be a series I would enjoy as an adult reader.

And…I was wrong.

But part of the success, I think, was that I began by reading Rose, which was written in 2002, but which serves as a prequel to the Bone series.

I didn’t have to relate to Caspar the Friendly Ghost at all, but to Rose, a young woman whose story was anchored by a kinda-familiar-sounding quest arc.

Rose contains many elements familiar to fantasy readers: folks gathering in caves with magical intentions; dragons, spells and charms; loyal four-legged and furred and feathered companions; raging rivers; a hooded nemesis; and many betrayals.

But there is at least one element of the story that truly surprised me.

And it was one that shocked my 11-year-old Buried-in-Print girl. (If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean, and, if you haven’t, I shan’t spoil it for you.)

So it was because I trusted Jeff Smith’s storytelling, that I ventured into his Bone 1: Out from Boneville. And my prejudice against white, bald, blobbish, smurfish characters was challenged more directly.

And…I was still wrong.

Bone 1: Out from Boneville

Bone is awesome. He is loyal, determined, and smarter than some.

And I like him. After the second book I was interested and, after the third book, I was invested. (And, with the fifth volume, there was yet another shift.)

Mostly this is because they make me laugh. And the laughter is more character-driven than plot-related. Well, there are some funny things that happen, but mostly it’s all about how the characters respond to situations.

Take the spoiled and money-grubbing Phoney Bone. He’s got no time for niceties; unless you can make him a profit, he’s not interested in small-talk.

So it’s funny when a new character gets introduced with “I’m Ted. I’m a bug.” And Phoney responds with “Enough with the details.”

(And if you don’t think it’s funny, even slightly, than I haven’t done a good job of sketching Phoney, but if you don’t know Phoney, it’s funny: trust me.)

My two gripes?

Our heroine is too Barbie-pretty.

And the trouble-makers are rats, which is just too obvious, doncha think?

I’m so tired of bad rats.

Bone 2: The Great Cow Race

Yup, a cow race.

You know humour is going to take a front seat in this volume.

(It is a favourite with my two Buried-in-Print girls; they enjoyed it far more than I did.)

The characters are more clearly delineated and the setting is enlarged so that the maps on the endpapers seem to have a purpose now.

And the sense of the mystery which lies beneath the dreams that Rose and Fone Bone have been having deepens. Which simultaneously draws them a little closer together.

Alliances are forged more solidly and the threats that loom also become more substantive.

But both the sense of mystery and the growing development of alliances/threats are even more pressing in Bone 3: Eyes of the Storm (of which I’ll have more to say tomorrow).

And how about you? Have you met Bone?

(More about the rest of the series to come this week…)



  1. John Mutford October 1, 2011 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Hi BIP, Just noticed that you’re adding these to the Canadian Book Challenge, but can’t see the connection as Jeff Smith is American and still lives in the US. But maybe there is another Canadian connection I`m not aware of?

    • Buried In Print October 1, 2011 at 11:51 am - Reply

      Thanks for straightening that out, John. I thought I’d seen them listed there before, but maybe I got my Jeffs confused. Now I can stop worrying about how to count them, because it didn’t seem that one slim volume should equal one book, but choosing to have three of them equal one felt rather arbitrary too. ::shrug:: This is simpler!

  2. Nathalie September 15, 2011 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Griffin loved, loved, loved these and has re-read the series several times. I’d dismissed them for myself, but your discussion of Rose has me interested now, too.

    • Buried In Print September 30, 2011 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      The BIP girls are big on re-reading them too (me, not so much, but maybe after some time has passed). If you’re going to give them a try, do start with Rose. Mr. BIP started with #1 and it completely changed his reading experience; he enjoyed them, too, but I think the reason that I enjoyed them as much as I did really was rooted in Rose.

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