Sunday Book Reviews – 5/12/19

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Highlights from Yank, the Army Weekly (Ballantine, 1955)

This uncommon book is likely something that would need to be ordered from Amazon or purchased off of eBay. At a general cost of less than $12, shipping included, it is absolutely worth doing so.

Yank magazine was produced during World War II by enlisted men, for enlisted men. The perspective of the stories was that of the people who were walking across the fields and taking fire. When they celebrated the liberation of a town or recalled losses, the stories were personal.

They were also very well written. From a time where fame did not guarantee Officer status, there are pieces in the book from authors like Private William Saroyan… who had already won the Pulitzer for drama. It also contained the work of cartoonists such as Bill Mauldin and Bil Keane.

The magazine also contained large photo spreads, which added greatly to the effectiveness of the stories. The book, however, gives a reader the chance to see a spread of stories and cartoons from across the duration of the war, and provides an interesting ground-level view of history from those who were living it.

Bone by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books, 1991)

There are many books which claim to be “all-ages”. That is generally a flag meaning that the story will be lacking in any sex or explicit violence, and also any plot complexity, depth of characterization, and character development.

Bone has been among the most recommended young adult books for a quarter of a century because it breaks all of those molds. An all-ages book, it plays first to the nostalgia of anyone who grew up reading or watching Disney cartoons. The renderings of the Bones and their description of Boneville are intentionally reminiscent of Carl Barks’ Duckville, and their being driven out because of Phoney Bone’s scheme makes him seem like a less reputable version of Scrooge McDuck.

The nostalgia factor is quickly supplanted by firm storytelling. The Bone cousins get separated and the reader follows Fone Bone, the hero of the tale, into an odd forest where he meets various talking animals, a young woman named Thorn and her grandmother, and two huge, dangerous rat creatures.

Stupid, stupid rat creatures.

By the time you’ve encountered the Great Cow Race it’s obvious that Bone is more than it seems, with the humor and gentle action swerving toward a surprisingly adult wager (ownership of a tavern is on the line). From there it’s off to a retelling of Moby Dick in a dream to a kingdom-saving fight to the return of the dragons, all developing seamlessly and all featuring both humor and wit.

It’s a story that can be read by a grandparent to a six year old, and a story that a fifteen year old can pick up by themselves, and something that an adult will enjoy as a break from heavier fare. It’s truly for all ages.

The books were originally released as a set of 55 comics, and have been collected in editions of various sizes from complete omnibuses to smaller editions (the first of which is titled Out From Boneville). Unlike the Yank compilation, they can be found almost everywhere.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.