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Middle-Grade Review: Bea Wolf

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Book By Book

I was intrigued by the title and cover of middle-grade graphic novel Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith, illustrated by Boulet, and I absolutely loved this smart, clever, funny riff on the Old English classic Beowulf.

The graphic novel begins with a short history lesson, about a long succession of child kings (and queens), going back generations, ruling benevolently over the other kids in the suburban neighborhood, ensuring there was plenty of candy, toys, and fun for all:

“Listen to the lives of the long-ago kids, the world-fighters,
the parent-unminding kids, the improper, the politeness-proof,
the unbowed bully-crushers,
the bedtime-breakers, the raspberry-blowers,
fighters of fun-killers, fearing nothing, fated for fame.”

We learn about each of these renowned child leaders, including the famed Carl, who eventually succumbed to teendom: “Lament not his low fate. Time lingers for no kid.” Finally, we get to the current kid king, Roger:

“Kids who knew the crown-line of Carl flocked to their cause.
So that by the reign of Roger, so rich was the candy cache,
so much bully-gold was berthed, so well-betoyed were boy and girl,
that Roger, game-giver and toy-sharer,
turned his thoughts to treehouses.”

Roger and the other kids build an amazing treehouse, which comes to be known as Treeheart and provides a place for raucous, unfettered, un-chaperoned kid fun. But Mr. Grindle watches all this unbridled chaotic joy from his yard:

“He would stride the starless dark, staring over hedge, stirring his temper,
harrowing his hearing, hating the gum-smacking, the blowing of bubbles,
the butt-jokes and belching laughter, the bursting of bang snaps,
the vast-volumed video games of no educational value whatsoever!”

Mr. Grindle, “the fun-grinder, the grim-faced joy-gobbler,” won’t stand for such unproductive, noisy activity, and he attacks Treeheart, with his cleaning supplies and educational materials. Things become sad and hopeless for the kids for a while, until Bea Wolf, a five-year-old cousin of Carl, who lives upriver in Heidi’s domain, comes to save them.

I just had to include several quotes from this book because the text is so delightfully clever and fun! Every page is like that, as the author mimics the cadence, rhyming, and alliteration of the original Beowulf. I never read the epic poem myself (so you don’t need to know it to appreciate this wonderful book), but I remembered my son studying it in Brit Lit, and I looked it up while reading this graphic novel to further enhance my enjoyment. I knew about Beowulf and Grindle, but Weinersmith also takes some other character names from the original, like King Hrothgar (Roger), as well as the general storyline. But the writing is only half of the fun here! The fabulous illustrations are just as enchanting, and I often took my time to reread the text and enjoy the pictures before turning the page.

When my sons were young, they would have loved this joyful, witty, ingenious book! I’m sure we would have read and reread it, as they said, “again!” and I can just see them poring over each detailed illustration intensely. This is the best kind of book for kids–the kind that adults will love, too.

208 pages, First Second

This book fits in the following 2023 Reading Challenges:

Diversity Reading Challenge
R.I.P. Challenge

Visit my YouTube Channel for more bookish fun!

You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)–the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!



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