196. The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier (Canada) - (USA)
Walker Bean, Book 1

Pages: 192
Ages: 9+
Finished: Sept. 19, 2010
First Published: Aug. 17, 2010
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: graphic novel, children, adventure
Rating: 4.5/5

First sentence:

For hundreds of years, from seaport to shantytown, a legend has been told to the children there ...

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: My son loves seafaring tales and this looked wonderful.

This is a beautiful book to behold. The illustrations are so bold, vibrant and full of details. The panels have so much going on in the background that one can look into them and see something new each time. We are even treated to the occasional two-page spread illustration. While some of these may be focused on a large central figure, the background will still hold many small details that one should linger on so as not to miss, but on the other hand there are a couple of amazingly intricately detailed two-page spreads that just make you want to keep looking to see what you are missing before turning the page.

Walker Bean has been sent off to sea by his grandfather, who has commanded Walker's father to return a cursed skull to its rightful place. Knowing that the father will not follow through, probably sell it somewhere, Walker is charged with making sure the job gets done. You see, grandfather bought that skull, looked at it and is now near death's door unless it is returned to its guardians. What follows is a rip-roaring yarn full of sea adventure mostly of the perilous kind.

While the story is not a fantasy per se, one must be able to suspend reality while reading of Walker Bean's adventures as they are of the most bizarre nature. Be prepared to meet pirates, a pirate girl who has turned the bow of the ship into a garden complete with lemon tree, great monstrous sea hags of legend and a cursed skull to begin with. Walker is a congenial protagonist who will appeal to all readers, wearing glasses, pudgy, reluctantly on the mission, but brave and determined. On the pirate ship Walker teams up with similarly aged Shiv and Genoa. Shiv is a humorous side-kick who knows his way around a pirate ship and comes up with great plans. Gen on the other-hand is a rather frightening, aggressive girl with red pigtails who is a delightfully enchanting character. Just loved her!

A great story and fantastic art combined with thrilling action and outrageously fun characters make this an entertaining seafaring adventure.