I’ve heard good things about this series of easy graphic novels from several sources. And I admit book one was engaging. Fone Bone is a cute little white critter that reminds me a bit of Casper the ghost. He’s even-tempered, reasonable and likeable. But he, along with his cousins Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, are kicked out of Boneville because of Phoney’s greedy, selfish, deceiving practices. The threesome immediately becomes separated and lost when a swarm of locust overruns them in the desert. After outsmarting a pair of not-so-bright rat creatures with large appetites, Bone spends the winter with a young girl with whom he’s become enamored and her grandmother, finally reuniting with his cousins in the spring. In the meantime, the leader of the rat creatures, a figure that looks like the Grim Reaper, raises an army to find Fone and kill him. We’re not told why (yet), but it has something to do with tracking down the very disagreeable Phoney Bone.
I’m not a fan of graphic novels. If they get kids reading, that’s great, but I don’t really enjoy them. I picked this one up because of its popularity with the 8- to 11-year-old set. And it did hold my attention. Of course, it lacks the detail that goes into a regular novel. The pictures, however, play a unique role in telling the story, and these are nicely done. Easy vocabulary and not too many words on a page make it appealing to beginning readers or those who read with difficulty. I also like the simplicity of the Bone figures and of the background in most scenes. They aren’t overdone. It has good vs. bad characters (though I felt they could not develop fully in such a format), kid-appealing humor, an underdog sort of hero, a pretty girl, and a fair amount of action.
But it did have a number of things I didn’t appreciate for this age group. For one thing, the girl often looks like a teenager, and some of the drawings of her are quite provocative. Her cloak or dress is always slipping far off her shoulder and in one case shows a good deal of cleavage. She undresses in several scenes (not fully), and once she and Fone bathe together in the hot spring (castoff clothes are shown on shore) and Fone, in his nervousness, swallows the soap. It also has references to “Big” Johnson Bone (supposedly the town founder), and furthermore, it contains two instances of OMG.
Scholastic lists the reading level of this series at 3.6 but lists the interest level at grades 6-8. I was going to let my son read it after me, but I changed my mind. Despite the low reading level, Out From Boneville is NOT geared toward youngsters.
Out From Boneville (Bone, book one), by Jeff Smith, 2005