When you were a kid did you dream of digging up dinosaurs? Or did you dream about space; flying across galaxies and hanging out with aliens? As a kid, I was interested in both. I wanted to be a paleontologist and struggled with the idea that if wanted to travel the universe, there was no way I could study dinosaurs at the same time.
In his new graphic novel for young adults, Alien Bones, Chris “Doc” Wyatt has combined the two in a way that would have sent my childhood heart reeling for my (slightly overly optimistic) future occupation. While Alien Bones is a cool take on a childhood dream job, it also has a lot to say about humanity, friendship, and hope.
A familiar story
The storyline is simple and feels strongly reminiscent of older, well-established sci-fi series like Star Wars and Firefly. The story is centered around young protagonist, Liam Mycroft, who travels the galaxy with his father and helps him to preserve fossils of alien dinosaurs. The story begins with the disappearance of Liam’s dad.
Realizing his dad is missing, Liam teams up with his schoolmate companion, Dianna, his pet dinosaur, and his robot babysitter, Stan, to begin canvassing the area. They suddenly stop at the edge of a huge hole, but something smacks into them from behind and pushes them in. After falling into it they find themselves faced with Liam’s school bully, Rosa, who had used a hologram projector to follow them.
Deep in the hole they find an abandoned city and a crystal gem. They take the gem and get out of the hole in order to return to the ship and fly to the museum where Liam’s dad works, hoping to find clues about his disappearance. On the way, they are accosted by pirates but manage to dupe them and make it to the museum.
A chaotic story unfolds in the museum and the kids are beamed into another universe where they learn about a devastating plague of monstrous aliens who plan to kill all humans. As everything unfolds and becomes understood to both the reader and Liam, he grows into a brave and bold hero who feels it’s his duty to save the entire human race. It’s an intense race against the end times, but Liam and his friends take it to task!
Admittedly, the storyline is predictable for an older reader or sci-fi fans, and let’s not even talk plot holes and feasibility. BUT as a kids story? It’s nail-biting and hard to put down. The illustrations by Chris Grine amplify the excitement of the text and truly bring the story to life; they’re both fun and adorable, and on occasion even radiate a feeling of empowerment.
Wyatt may be best known for directing Napoleon Dynamite, but he has often assumed the role of writer and/or editor on televised episodes of shows like Ninjago, Super Dinosaur, and Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters. He’s also written quite a few books which typically appeal to young audiences ranging from early beginners up to mid-teens. In other words, he knows what’s up when it comes to writing for youngsters, and it really shows.
Digging a little deeper
There’s a lot of social commentary that shines through in this work. It really gives children the chance to find that their voice matters, that they have a role in working toward a future that is better for all of humanity. Almost every character in the book has a revelation that changes their mentality in a positive way.
Some take away lessons you might see could be about viewing others from a different point of view, doing the right thing, working with those you distrust, and especially standing up for what you believe. You might have to reflect on ethical questions such as whether zoos are acceptable, and you may end up talking about moral dilemmas and whether “the greater good” is more valuable than the self.
Though Alien Bones is meant for younger audiences, adult readers will appreciate the undertones of the books’ social commentary and the various pop-culture references. The storyline itself is very charming and feels cozily familiar while the illustrations bring fun and visual beauty. Every page seemingly pays a little homage to much loved science fiction greats and more, which would be a lot of fun for kids that are already living in the sci-fi world.
Of course, there’s obviously a lot of science based ideas in Wyatt’s world given the nature of the book, but it isn’t bogged down with heavy explanations. The kiddos who love science will be pleased with some of the references, but what’s more is that kids who aren’t as interested in science will be introduced to scientific ideas and concepts, likely without ever even realizing it. And yeah, there are elements of mysticism, too, that will speak to kids curious nature.
All in all, it’s definitely something you won’t want your kids to miss out on, especially if they dream of digging up dinosaurs or roaming the stars. It’s beautifully written and illustrated and has a positive message that is increasingly important in our changing world. Alien Bones is set to hit the shelves October 2nd. Make sure to pick up a copy for your dreamer…your inner child will thank you, too.
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