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Bone: A Reccomendation...as if it Needs One
Article by Scott Tingley, March 29, 2008

I couldn't make this stuff up. I hate to exaggerate anyway, which makes me a terrible storyteller. I can make up a decent story, but if I am retelling an event I am pathologically compelled to tell only what happened. No exaggeration allowed! So, when you read the next paragraph, please understand that it was not fabricated to make a point.

That is quite a build up for such a small thing...

Last week, report cards went out and we had Parent Teacher Interviews. It's like Christmas and Free Comic Book Day all rolled into one. Except that it is the opposite of that. Anyway, I have a class of very hard working, very bright students, but I am concerned that they may not continue their studious ways when they get into older grades. During PTIs I had a conversation with one mother in which I expressed my concerns about her son in that I was not sure if he actually enjoyed reading. There is no denying that he is very bright and an excellent reader, but if he takes no joy in reading it will be hard for him to develop into a life long learner. That same weekend that student took home Bone volume 1. The first thing he said to me when we got back to school after the long weekend was that he loved Bone and that he had read it three times already.

If you believe that reading is reading - that reading anything age appropriate is to be considered a good thing, then this is a great thing to hear. My class has a fairly large selection of graphic novels and comics, but I don't care if my kids become comic readers; I just want them to be exposed to all sorts of reading material. The fact that many of my class are clamoring to borrow these books shows me that they are interested in comics, but more importantly, that they are interested in reading.

Back to Bone. I do have one concern with Bone. When I talk to adults about the series I compare it to Harry Potter, in that both series start off suitable for just about anybody, but as the series progresses it gets darker and darker. I have read the first seven of the nine volumes of Bone (8 and 9 have not yet been released in full color through Scholastic, even though the series is available in its previously released black and white), and I have concerns about giving the later books to my grade threes. I was thinking that I would allow them to read up to volume 5 and lend them the rest next year, but I don't think they are going to be happy with that. There are a few that are going to bug me until I let them borrow all that I have. But, is that not a huge endorsement for the series? Kids pestering me to lend them books? That's big!

There is nothing really wrong with the later books, but they do get more violent. For instance, one of the bad guys gets his tongue removed by a not quite as bad guy. You don't see the removal, but you do see the tongue. On the other hand, we took the k-8 students to see Narnia a couple years ago, and the lion crucifixion scene makes anything in Bone seem tame (Also, I just read The Paper Bag Princess to my 3 year old daughter: horses bones, "I just ate a whole castle today", massive deforestation! How did this one get past parents? A joke, but if very little kids can handle this, many 9 year olds and up can handle Bone). There is some spirit/religion type stuff in #6 that may bother some, but if a kid has seen any of the Star Wars movies, it is not much different than the Force . One has to keep in mind that the creator, Jeff Smith, made this series for himself, not thinking at all about kids reading it. He was actually surprised to find out that libraries were suggesting it for kids and that kids were reading it. That explains why a couple of characters in the book smoke cigars and that some of the story takes place in a tavern. Again, tame compared to stuff I know my students watch on a regular basis, but comic material is too often held to a higher moral standard, for some reason.

Volumes 1-3, maybe 4 are perfectly acceptable for a grade three classroom (keeping in mind the smoking characters), and if you know your kids and your community, the later volumes may be acceptable as well. I wouldn't think twice about putting them in a grade 5 or 6 classroom.

It is no surprise to comic readers, but kids love the Bone comic series. Jeff Smith created it for himself fifteen or so years ago, and it has blown up into something huge. With a movie on the horizon, it will likely get even bigger. The full-color Scholastic editions are up to #7 and can be found in book stores, comics shops, and very often in the Scholastic order forms (Arrow in Canada , the 4-8 book club).


NOTE: I will update after I read vol 8 and 9, at the moment, nothing I have written above is an endorsement of those two books. Not smart to endorse something I haven't read.



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