Sunday, October 24, 2010


By Kevin Hodgson
Staff Writer

SALT WATER TAFFY is a delight. It probably helped that I took this graphic novel with me on our family vacation to Maine because the story focuses on two brothers –– Jack and Benny –– as their family vacations in Maine. The older brother is bored out of his head, particularly since the batteries on his Gameboy have died. What’s he to do now? Explore the small town in Maine, where they meet with an old fisherman named Angus who tells them the tall tale of Old Salty, the gigantic lobster who rules the ocean.

It’s a tall tale, for sure, but the boys can’t help but get drawn in, particularly when a band of thieving lobsters (you heard that right) steal salt water taffy from the downtown store (yep, you heard that right, too) on behalf of Old Salty, who apparently has a bit of a sweet tooth (yep). The boys help Angus grapple with Old Salty (scenes of Moby Dick come to mind), spark a revolution of freedom by the little lobsters and forget all about that Gameboy in lieu of living a real life of adventure.

There are plenty of moments of comedy, including the “meeting” of the lobsters and a mysterious visitor to the town which turns out to be a flock of seagulls in a strange disguise. It’s all great fun in SALT WATER TAFFY by Matthew Loux. (And I see that Loux has put out at least two more SALT WATER TAFFY books, which is good news).

Drawn in black and white by Loux, the art here is a perfect combination of energy and curiosity. The bodies of the characters are long, and lean, and seem almost on the verge of movement. The faces of the characters, particularly Angus the fisherman, contain just enough of a look of a smile that you know Loux is putting us, and Jack and Benny, on the road to a tall tale, and that’s okay.

I could see SALT WATER TAFFY having a place on the book stand for upper elementary or middle school readers. The character of Jack, in particular, is interesting, as he is cast first as a typical 11 year old who would rather be anywhere but with his family but then comes out of his shell through experiences in the real world (as opposed to that of his beloved Gameboy). The book also provides a nice entry into the use of setting, as the flavor of New England is all over this story. How might the story differ if it was set in the Midwest, for example?


Publisher's Recommended Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Format: Paperback
Pages: 96
Publisher: Oni Press
ISBN-10: 1932664947
ISBN-13: 978-1932664942

I highly recommend this book. It is great fun and is completely appropriate for the classroom.

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