________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006


The Great Cow Race. (Bone #2).

Jeff Smith.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2005.
144 pp., pbk. & cl., $12.99 (pbk.), $25.99 (cl.).
ISBN 0-439-70639-4 (pbk.), ISBN 0-439-70624-6 (cl.).

Subject Heading:
Comic books, strips, etc.

Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

**** /4



internal artThe final frame of Out from Boneville, the first installment of Jeff Smith’s nine-volume graphic novel adventure saga, “Bone,” ended with a cheery announcement: “Next: The Spring Fair!” The marquee event of the Barrelhaven Spring Fair, the Great Cow Race, graces the cover of Book 2. Why a cow race? Well, why not? As with everything in the “Bone” series, there’s always a twist, and the cow on the cover is certainly no ordinary bovine. It’s Smiley Bone (a.k.a. “The Mystery Cow”), dressed in a makeshift cow costume, with his cousin, Fone Bone, desperately running beside him, and both are hotly pursued by the evil, fanged, “stupid, stupid rat creatures” (first encountered in Book 1) whose mission is to track down the third Bone cousin, Phoncible (a.k.a. Phoney) Bone.

     How did they find themselves in this sorry situation? Well, as usual, Phoney can’t resist the lure of a get-rich-quick scheme – the same shenanigans which made the cousins refugees from Boneville in the first place – and this time, he’s trying to fix The Great Cow Race, an annual Spring Fair event. Rose Ben, grandmother of the lissome Thorn, on whom poor little Fone has a heart-breaking crush, has won the race for decades. Touting “the Mystery Cow” as Grandma Rose’s main contender, Phoney hopes for a big payoff. Smiley is no marathoner, although he was “th’ fastest kid in [his] kindergarten class.” But, as is typical with any of Phoney’s schemes, things go terribly wrong, there’s a terrible dust-up between racing cows and the rat creatures, and Grandma Rose wins, leaving Phoney, his friends and family, fleeing to escape the wrath of an angry mob.

     Amidst the excitement of the Great Cow Race, story-vines begun in “Bone #1" continue to send out new feelers: Fone continues his futile attempts to become Thorn’s sweetheart, Thorn tries to make sense of disturbing dreams about cave-dwelling dragons and a map that she remembers from childhood, Rose Ben offers a few tantalizing hints about her past history with the Dragon, and finally, there are the two hapless rat monsters, incompetent henchmen of the mysterious Kingdok, charged with the capture of Phoney Bone, and bickering with each other after each failed opportunity.

     Readers of Out from Boneville will be pleased to catch up on their favourite characters, and they’ll definitely enjoy the colour illustrations of this volume. Smith does an excellent job at filling in the gaps so that anyone who hasn’t read “Bone #1" will be able to figure out who’s who in the story. As with “Bone #1,” I was totally immersed in the story and amused by humour which ranges across all levels of reader sophistication. This is a graphic novel which appeals to readers of all ages, both sexes, and every level of reading motivation. Buy more than one copy for your school library, or expect a huge reserve list!

Highly Recommended.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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