Audrey recommends: Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith
Genre: Graphic novel
Reading Level: 8+
Summary: The epic hero Beowulf is reimagined as a five-year-old fighter guarding her candy and toy hoard from the gloom of grown-ups.
Audrey says: As someone who studied Old English extensively in undergrad, I was honor-bound to check out this charming new adaptation about a kindergarten Beowulf and a gloomy grown-up Grendel. I was not expecting how faithful it would be to the original. As I stood in front of the shelf reading the first few pages, I immediately picked up on the period-accurate alliteration and the creative kennings. Weinersmith even adapts the seemingly tangential anecdotes thrown into the poem, even when he could have excluded them for narrative consistency. It brought me so much joy.
If you’re familiar with the original, you’ll get a chuckle out of the clever adaptation choices. But if you’re not a die-hard Beowulf fan like me, the story stands on its own as a tale of kids who are fighting the pressure to grow up too fast. Old English poetry was written for the ear, rather than the eye. That means it’s extremely fun to read aloud, with the high density of stressed syllables and the satisfying cadence of repeated sounds. The verse is bolstered by absurd illustrations from French comic artist Boulet. This is a great book if you want an easy entry into Old English, or a hilarious read-aloud for kids.