Is your youngster a fan of Jeff Smith’s "Bone" series?
If not, you are both missing out on one of the best comic series of all time. In this funny, exciting, fantasy adventure, three Bone cousins leave Boneville and stumble upon the Valley, where they help Princess Thorn and her Gran’ma Ben defeat the nefarious Lord of the Locusts and his nasty rat creatures, restoring Thorn as ruler of the Valley. The original black-and-white comic book ran from 1991 to 2004 and then Scholastic’s Graphix imprint collected and colorized the series in nine volumes which concluded in 2009.
There have been three other books to finish up the Bone world but, alas, it seemed as if the stories were finally at an end.
But now – good news! Scholastic is releasing a new series of novels that take place in the Bone world. "Bone: Quest for the Spark, Book One" (recommended for ages 9-12) is the first in a planned trilogy written by Tom Sniegoski with a cover and interior illustrations by Jeff Smith.
At first I was disappointed that the original Bone cousins were not going to be a part of the story but soon I was caught up in the adventures of 12-year-old turnip farmer Tom Elm. Tom dreams of a bigger life for himself and gets his wish as he is tasked with saving his family and the world from the evil Nacht, who is slowly putting the people of the Valley into slumber, including Queen Thorn and Gran’ma Ben. This first book introduces us to Tom and the allies he gathers to go on a quest to find the lost pieces of the "spark" which will defeat the Nacht. The array of amusing and diverse characters in the ragtag band include Tom’s best friend, Roderick the raccoon; the strange shape-shifting woman Lorimar; a Veni Yan warrior; and two stupid rat creatures (yes, "Bone" fans, those stupid rat creatures!).
My favorite members of the group though are the new Bone characters, explorer Percival Bone and his niece Abbey and nephew Barclay. They find their way into the Valley after hearing about it from our old friends the Bone cousins.
Sniegoski crafts an exciting story filled with hilarious situations, heartwarming friendships, and lots of whiz-bang action that fits perfectly into the Bone world. He gives his characters enough "screen time" for us to slowly get to know them and their own backstories. Most of the group are on their own personal quests as well, which creates plenty of mysteries for readers to puzzle over.
The illustrations by Smith are loads of fun, immersing the story even more deeply in his Bone world and giving the reader a visual for all these colorful characters. And speaking of color, the coloring job by Steve Hamaker (who did a wonderful job coloring the original series) gives Smith’s art a bright, warm texture.
Although you could read this story on its own, you would get much more out of it if you start off with the original series. Once you have, you can join the rest of us Bone fans in cheering the return to the world of Bone and looking forward to more thrills to come. Let’s hope it’s not too long a wait!
Rich Clabaugh is a Monitor staff artist.