Jeff Smith - From Bone to Little Mouse

Jeff Smith - From Bone to Little Mouse

Little Mouse Gets Ready

Now that his self-published comic book Bone has become a successful series for kids, cartoonist Jeff Smith is reaching out to children again with Little Mouse Gets Ready, a book for emerging readers.

"Little Mouse is actually a character I created when I was a kid," said Smith, who also invented his Bone characters as a child. "It's one of the many characters I made up when I was young. It was just a little gray mouse with a little red vest. So I thought, ‘Well, maybe he would be a good character to use in a comic for kids,’ since I used to make up stories with this character when I was a kid."

Little Mouse Gets Ready will be released in September by Toon Books, a line of graphic novels for kids that was launched last year by comic pioneers Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman. The books have already been embraced by some school systems that recognize comic books as an effective way to encourage children to read.

"I've been friends with Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, his wife, for awhile, and the two of them are launching this line of comics, or graphic novels, aimed at really young, emerging readers," Smith said. "They asked me if I'd like to do one. And I thought it would be fun."

Smith said Little Mouse was a welcome switch from his current work on the more adult-level comic book RASL, which follows the adventures of a dimension-hopping art thief and was recently collected into its first trade paperback. While that story is complex, the story in Little Mouse is very straightforward, Smith said.

"I know Bone is marketed as a kids book these days, but I really never intentionally set out to write a kids book before. So I had to think about being very straightfoward in this story. Plus, these are for really little kids, like five to seven years old," Smith said, comparing Little Mouse to his Bone series, which is marketed to children age 9 and up.

Little Mouse Gets Ready tells the story of how the title character gets ready to go to the barn, mastering all the details of getting dressed, from the buttons on his shirt to the tail hole in his underpants.

"I read the other comics that they'd prepared in the line. There's something called Silly Lilly, and I read Art Spiegelman's Jack and the Box, which was just a very straightforward children's story," Smith said. "When I was first coming up with the idea for Little Mouse, I thought that since the character had the little red vest, that maybe it would be fun to have him dress himself, since that's something all kids can identify with."

Smith said that beyond that, he just wrote and drew the book the same way he always does, creating a story that even he could enjoy. "I'm just kind of a big kid myself," he added with a laugh.

It's rare to find comic materials like Toon Books that are published specifically for ages 4 and up, yet Smith has proven that children are a viable audience for comic books, thanks to the sales success and enthusiastic acceptance among educators of the color versions of Bone from publisher Scholastic. While it's often cited that Bone has sold "more than a million copies worldwide," Smith told Newsarama that the ninth volume of Bone in color, which was just released by Scholastic on Jan. 20, has already sold 3 million copies.

While those kind of numbers aren't expected from the fledgling Toon Books line -- at least not yet -- this venture represents the first collection designed to offer newly-emerging readers comic books they can read themselves. And Smith said that's something he supports 100 percent.

"What was interesting was that when I originally got involved with Scholastic, it was Art and Francoise who originally called me. Art and Fracoise were trying to launch some kind of imprint of comics for kids then. And I thought it was a great idea from the beginning," Smith said. "For whatever reason, they didn't end up working with Scholastic, so they started up their own imprint at Raw Junior. So it's kind of weird that they first brought me into the world of children's comic book publishing, way back before Bone was even at Scholastic. And now it's come around full circle again to where I'm working with them at their Toon Books. And the whole experience has just been great."

Little Mouse Gets ready will be a 32-page hardcover in 9" x 6" format and will retail at $12.95. For more information on other stories from Toon Books, visit the Toon Books website at


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