Bea Wolf

First Second. Feb. 2023. 208p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250776297.
Gr 5 Up–High up in the halls of Treeheart, children party for as long as their bodies can stand. Their sweets and games are glorious to behold, but the noise disturbs Mr. Grindle below. Grindle’s touch ages his victims, transforming some of the erstwhile partygoers into “aching, anxious, angry at the internet” dullards who obsess over cable news, stock markets, and hygiene. The remaining children are demoralized by his constant cleaning and straightening of their otherwise epic clubhouse. Bea Wolf, who is white, appears one-third of the way into the story, the latest among generations of child-heroes renowned for feats of strength and bravery. The children of Treeheart are a diverse bunch, including Black king Roger and his war-guard Wendy, who is Asian. Several story elements are lightly adapted from the original Beowulf and will reward anyone familiar with the tale. Weinersmith’s iambic alliterations will invite intense imitation from readers. Bea and Grindle’s powers pale in comparison to those of artist Boulet, whose work with texture, moonlight, and distorted faces stuns at every turn. Back matter includes a history of Beowulf, how it became a popular legend, a comparison between Old English and Weinersmith’s modern homage, and some Boulet sketches.
VERDICT Readers will wish they could pledge their plastic swords to defending Treeheart and the sanctity of wild childhoods everywhere.

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