Saturday, April 1, 2023

Spring Reading 2023 Bea Wolf

I've seen movie adaptations of the Beowulf story, and read the epic for literature courses, but this graphic novel retelling is a total romp. There is the treehouse feasting hall, the terrible Grinchy neighbor with his spidery looking arms and legs who is out to destroy all fun, and Bea Wolf herself - ready to kick butt and take names. The jubilant antics of the children eating sugary snacks, darkening the sky with innumerable Nerf darts, and swapping comics make for excellent reading. But the evil fate which can befall these heroes - to be sucked dry of all joy and turned into an adult focused on the trouble with Congress or bank appointments - is almost too terrible to mention. The original Grindle may have eaten people's heads, but at least he didn't make them suffer through stock market reports!

Illustrations capture the action with plenty of detail and make the change from happy treehouse warriors to loathsome adults glued to their cell phones terribly tragic. The expressive eyes of the children contrast sharply with the blank gaze of Grindle's eyeglasses and their motley gear of pajamas, Halloween costumes, and Underoos make his dull business suit seem even more drab by comparison. 

The afterword explains the history of the original Beowulf story and how it has been passed down over the centuries to us. It also discusses the original poetic form of the epic and how some of those tricks have been used in this version. Specifically the use of alliteration (such as "fighters of fun-killers, fearing nothing, fated for fame") and kennings (like calling Grindle "hall-wrecker") appear throughout the book, giving it the feel of an epic poem being recited. 

Besides offering a delightful reading experience, this would make a great mentor text for a lesson on using alliteration or figurative language. Imagine the kennings today's young bards could produce. The author mentions that his daughter came up with "diaper-stinker" to describe her little brother. 

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