Gonna Roll the Bones


Joe Slattermill is about to experience a night he'll never forget. Tired of his decrepit house, he leaves his wife and mother behind and sets out for a night at The Boneyard. Joe has a knack for dice throwing and figures he can take on any opponent. But can he win when the stakes are raised, and it's his life he's gambling for? A classic fable in the tradition of The Devil and Daniel Webster.

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David Wiesner New York, NY, U.S.A. 2004 Hardcover Limited As New in As New jacket Signed by Illustrator LIKE NEW CONDITION! Slipcase has minor shelf wear. On the book's ... illustrated cover page is a very small, faint blemish. The llustrator, David Wiesner, has numbered (20/150), signed and dated this illustrated page, as well as the title page (see photos). Original story by Fritz Leiber, copyright 1967. This limited collector's edition was printed September 2004. NO PRIORITY MAIL OR INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING ON THIS BOOK! Read more Show Less

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Joe Slattermill is about to experience a night he'll never forget. Tired of his decrepit house, he leaves his wife and mother behind and sets out for a night at The Boneyard. Joe has a knack for dice throwing and figures he can take on any opponent. But can he win when the stakes are raised, and it's his life he's gambling for? A classic fable in the tradition of The Devil and Daniel Webster.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As an art student, Caldecott medalist Wiesner (The Three Pigs) created a visual version of Lieber's novelette about a craps game with Death: the "bones" here double as dice and the opponent's skeletal body. In this moody exercise in sepia pencil on yellowed vellum, the artist supplements his fledgling effort with some new sketches. "Guess I'll roll the bones tonight," Joe Slattermill tells his mother and his wife. He moseys down to The Boneyard, a gambling den in a shadowy street that might be in a tenement neighborhood or the Wild West. At the craps table sit a fat casino boss named Mr. Bones and a mysterious Big Gambler with a "smooth white forehead" and eyes "like black holes." As Joe expertly shoots the dice and purposefully trips up to give the Big Gambler a turn, he finds himself in a duel for his soul. Smoky, decadent cabaret scenes alternate with ominous imagery of his grim rival, and the tale ends ambiguously when Joe loses his match (Death cheats) and takes "the long way [home]... around the world." Wiesner's horizontal landscape format and cinematic storyboard sequences-with gestures and movement evolving over several frames or even within a single sketch-prefigure his work in books such as Tuesday. The autumnal sketch-like illustrations, in contrast to the foreboding cover image in frosty green and gray-blue, demonstrate the evolution of his artwork. His tastes have evolved too, along with a sense of his young readership; collectors are the likeliest audience for this eerie tale. Ages 6-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
As a major project of his senior year at Rhode Island School of Design, noted wordless picture book author/illustrator David Wiesner reworked this eerie Hugo and Nebula Award-winning story for a different audience. Joe Slattermill leaves his disapproving mother and poor bread-baker wife to gamble with dice in the village—to "roll the bones" at The Boneyard. The gambling joint is populated by turn-of-the century sorts, one big-time gambler named Mr. Bones, and one really Big Gambler. Joe wins four thousand dollars from Mr. Bones but wants to stay to challenge the Big Gambler, who is a skeleton figure, a cheater, and in the end, the winner of Joe's life. But Joe fights the Boneyard denizens so hard that he seemingly wins and heads home, but the long way, around the world. Pacing lurches in this story, with occasional inelegant word choice (a die "comes down okay'), and an unclear end. Did Joe outwit the devil/skeleton or is he just cursed to wander before he is caught again? Wiesner's sketchbook illustrations, done with pencil on vellum, have an appropriately eerie cast, plenty of unspecific background, and a sense of design that later will be apparent in his wonderful wordless books. Readers may note that the text states Mr. Bones wears a tie clasp with his name on it but the picture shows it clearly as an embellishment on the shoulder of his suit. The pleasing orangey-brown frame of the brown pencil line illustrations is not complemented by enough action, especially in the later illustrations, to entice another look. The audience for this challenging-the-devil story, which seems to be upper elementary and not early elementary as suggested by the publishers, may be old enough toappreciate this work as the beginning of Weisner's picture book making, but it is not a first purchase. 2004, Milk & Cookies Press/Simon & Schuster, Ages 6 to 12.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Joe Slattermill is a gambling man who has an uncanny encounter with the Big Gambler in his town's new gaming parlor, The Boneyard. Leiber's fantasy novelette, greatly reduced and lightened in this picture-book adaptation, won the 1967 Nebula Award and the 1968 Hugo Award. Wiesner's sometimes smudgy pencil drawings on browned acrylic have the faded look of very long ago, though the text notes that "Far in the distance, Joe could see a faint glow of gas flares and blue lights and neon pink tubes, all jeering at the stars where the spaceships flew." Joe's attempt to out-gamble the Grim Reaper-type figure is both spooky and somewhat predictable. He loses his soul in a wager with the Big Gambler, and after a final physical skirmish, the skeletal figure crumbles and all turns to dust as though it had been but a dream. Yet, there's an intentionally nebulous and open-ended conclusion. The somber pictures sometimes have suggestive shapes and details, mixing light and dark, indistinct areas contrasting with more clearly drawn figures. The bleak look suits the darker tone of Leiber's original text. Sometimes the pictures contradict details mentioned in the text. The book may find an audience with older reluctant readers, and it could serve as an introduction to the longer fantasy works of Leiber. Larger collections will want it as a very different work by Wiesner.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689036378
  • Publisher: ibooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Edition description: Limited Edition
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

David Wiesner
Multiple Caldecott Medal winner David Wiesner has carved a unique niche for himself in the field of visual storytelling. Whimsical and sophisticated, his picture books are pure delight for children and grown-ups alike.


David Wiesner's interest in visual storytelling dates back to high school days when he made silent movies and drew wordless comic books. Born and raised in Bridgewater, New Jersey, he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Illustration. While a student, he created a painting nine feet long, which he now recognizes as the genesis of Free Fall, his first book of his own authorship, for which he was awarded a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1989.

David won his first Caldecott Medal in 1992 for Tuesday, and has gone on to win twice more: in 2002 for The Three Pigs and in 2007 for Flotsam. In addition writing and illustrating his own picture books, he has illustrated stories for many other children's authors.

Good To Know

  • At a young age, he created wordless comic books such as Slop the Wonder Pig and silent movies like his kung-fu vampire film The Saga of Butcula.

  • As an undergraduate at Rhode Island School of Design, he met two mentors: Tom Sgouros and David Macaulay who taught him the fundamentals of illustration and fostered his creative imagination. He dedicated Tuesday to Sgouros and The Three Pigs to Macaulay.

  • Wiesner is a three-time Caldecott winner and only the second person in the award's long history to claim that distinction.
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      1. Hometown:
        Outside Philadelphia, P.A.
      1. Date of Birth:
        February 5, 1956
      2. Place of Birth:
        Bridgewater, NJ
      1. Education:
        Rhode Island School of Design -- BFA in Illustration.
      2. Website:

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