Thursday, November 29, 2007


Paul D. Storrie
INKS: Ron Randall
COLORS: Hi-Fi Colour Design
LETTERING: Bill Hauser
PUBLISHER: Graphic Universe (Lerner Publishing)
GENRE: Traditional Literature

FORMAT: Hardback
PAGES: 48 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 0-8225-6757-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-8225-6757-8

Warrior, hero and King: Beowulf was all three to the people known as the Geats. Beowulf, hearing of King Hrothgar’s troubles, comes to the King of the Danes to rid him of the monster, Grendel, who kills the humans in the mead hall every nightfall. He lays in wait for Grendel – minus his mail, sword and shield – and attacks the beast bare handed, tearing off his arm.

Grendel flees to his mother’s lair to die. In her rage, his monstrous mother comes to the mead hall to enact her revenge, kidnapping and killing one warrior. So Beowulf goes to the lair beneath the rancid waters and swims to her den. There he takes a sword of the giants and kills her, beheads the dead Grendel, then leaves.

Beowulf was rewarded for his great deeds and eventually became the King of the Geats. In his twilight years, a dragon sought revenge on the people because a servant stole a golden cup from the dragon’s hoard. So Beowulf donned his sword and, armed with a new shield specially designed to withstand the dragon’s fire, Beowulf went to destroy the beast.

On that battlefield, Beowulf declared war on the worm and there they fought. His fearful men retreated save one, but Beowulf was fatally wounded. After the dragon was destroyed, Beowulf gave his possessions and kingdom to Wigluf, his faithful warrior, and was then burned in a funeral pyre and his remains buried in a barrow for all to see. Such is the story of the great Beowulf.

This is the BEOWULF title to use for elementary children, plain and simple. It tells the tale of BEOWULF but does so in such a way that does not talk down to students and is still appropriate for them. I have read and reviewed other BEOWULF adaptations and this version stands as tall as the others. The only difference that I noticed is that in this version BEOWULF swims directly to the she-beast’s lair without incident or intervention.

The language is modern but still maintains a hint of antiquity in both vocabulary and grammatical structure – just enough to add flavor to the story but not derail young readers. The illustrations are artfully crafted to depict the story with very little bloodshed being shown, which is significantly different than some other versions. This reflects the intended audience of the book: students in public schools.

As is common with the Graphic Universe series, the colors are bright and vibrant. The illustrations are rendered in a realistic style, which is typical of American comics. There are details in both the foreground and background as well with the characters.

My Rating: Ages 9 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 9-14
Publisher’s Reading Level: Grade 4
Publisher’s Interest Level: Grades 4-8

ATOS: 4.3
Lexile: Not rated at time of publication

To teach traditional literature in a classroom, one simply need open this graphic novel. Kids will be interested and engaged. In fact, many students will be eager to write their own action-adventure-fantasy stories after reading BEOWULF. There is so much a person could do with this text, including discussions on Scandinavian cultures and the influence of the culture on European (and American) culture. Certainly the hero mythology could be deeply explored using both traditional and modern heroes. Students could also come up with their own hero stories.

The good people from Lerner Publishing have included all kinds of goodies at the end of the book. They offer a glossary, pronunciation guide, information for further reading (text and Internet), and a brief description on the creation of this adaptation.

Other titles in the Graphic Myths and Legends series include:
  1. Amaterasu: Return of the Sun
  2. Arthur & Lancelot: The Fight for Camelot
  3. Atalanta: The Race Against Destiny
  4. Demeter & Persephone: Spring Held Hostage
  5. Hercules: The Twelve Labors
  6. Isis & Osiris: To the Ends of the Earth
  7. Jason: Quest for the Golden Fleece
  8. King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed
  9. Odysseus: Escaping Poseidon’s Curse
  10. Robin Hood: Outlaw of Sherwood Forest
  11. Sinbad: Sailing into Peril
  12. Theseus: Battling the Minotaur
  13. Thor & Loki: In the Land of Giants
  14. The Trojan Horse: The Fall of Troy
  15. Yu the Great: Conquering the Flood (reviewed by TGC)

Highly Recommended
I think this particular version of BEOWULF is the best choice for an elementary classroom. Depending on the school and the community, it may be the best choice for middle school as well. The story is accurate to the original text and is still very accessible to students and appropriate for the classroom.

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