The Unsinkable Walker Bean

By Aaron Renier; First Second, 2010; pp. 192

Plot: This story is a common one involving merwitches and underwater denizens living in an ocean floor trench, with the power to inflict terminal illness on any mortal who looks into their eyes. In the opening pages, the readers learn that Admiral Bean is gravely ill. The cause of his illness lies in the skull–created by witchcraft in his possession. His son, also a seafaring man, is not to be trusted. Instead, the Admiral’s grandson, the bespectacled and chubby Walker Bean, is the unwilling protagonist and the Admiral’s confidant. Walker is entrusted with the skull and the task of returning the skull to the merwitches. Except, Walker is kidnapped by pirates, carried off. Then, during a sea battle, Walker jumps ship, where two new teenager friends join him in his efforts to return the skull.

Ages: 9 to 12

The Review: Jeff Smith (author-illustrator of Bone) praised this book, and that was good enough for me. The illustrations in The Unsinkable Walker Bean are rich, dark, and foreboding. No, they rock! I’m reluctant to recommend a book based on its pictures, but the pictures ARE THAT GOOD. The storyline is predictable, but the friendship between Walker Bean and his two teen compatriots–Genoa and Shiv–has real depth and one that readers can connect with.  The saga will be continued in the upcoming Book 2.

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