“Bone”: Fairytales, maturity, and engagement


Jeff Smith’s graphic novel “Bone” has been a fixture of my life from a young age. A beat-up version of the collected edition rests on my family’s bookshelf, and I’ve read the story (or been read) the story in its entirety several times from the age of eight upwards.

My initial connection to “Bone” was that of adventure. Smith’s work was an engaging, funny, fast-paced adventure story that told the classic tale of good versus evil within a completely unique fantasy world. Looking back on it now, I recognize the importance of these characteristics but also appreciate new parts of it. Smith writes a story of dynamic characters who constantly undergo change– both within themselves and within their relationships to other people. The world itself is unapologetically fantastical, yet there are no explanations for the way the world works and so the audience is allowed to become fully immersed in the world.

“Bone” is about a family of Bones (This is the basis of all of their names as well as the town they are from) who have left their hometown after a messy election. As the trio travel, they are separated by a swarm of locusts and lost within a mountain range. While the three emerge, they find themselves scattered across the continent. In their attempts to find one another, they become enmeshed in the lives of the people around them and increasingly drawn into a prophecy of ancient evil and chosen ones.

Smith’s writing style is immediately engaging. The voice of protagonist Phone Bone is developed and unique, allowing the reader to attach to where the journey takes them. The tone is akin to that of a fairytale– an older family member recounting a story important to them or reliving a moment from their life.

In this way, “Bone” gets under the audience’s skin. It feels at once familiar and unknown, pushing the reader to further grab onto the characters while turning page after page.

Smith’s artwork only emphasizes this.

The best way I can think to describe the look of “Bone” is ‘delightful’. There’s something joyous about the obvious love and intention behind each design. 

The design of the Bone family is almost laughably absurd but also reminiscent of a stuffed animal. The human characters are drawn in stark detail; the path of their lives evident in the wrinkles and lines across their faces.

The villains are at once terrifying, strangely recognizable, and cute (like the rat monsters). It’s a complicated experience– at once hating everything the characters represent and yet wanting to analyze every part of them.

In this way, rereading “Bone” is like rewatching an old animated movie and finding something different to examine or love each time.

I have no doubt “Bone” will remain a formative story for me, and I have every intention of reading it again to find new meaning in the story, and in my life.


10/10 would watch the Bone family travel again

Further Breakdown:

Writing Quality: 10/10            Enjoyability: 10/10

Pace: 10/10                                Visual elements: 10/10

Plot development: 10/10         Insightfulness: 9/10 

Characters: 10/10