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13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear Paperback – August 29, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Nine-lived cats have nothing on the "bluebear," who, according to German author and illustrator Moers, has a whopping 27 lives. In this inventive, zany, fun-for-all ages odyssey (a bestseller in Europe), an intrepid "seagoing bear" offers his "demibiography." A foundling floating in a nutshell on the Zamonian Sea, the azure-furred Bluebear is rescued by Minipirates, impish nautical geniuses, who raise him and then, after he gets too big, abandon him to live out 13 lifetimes of adventure populated by a dizzying array of eccentric characters. Among them, two argumentative waves known as the "Babbling Billows" teach Bluebear speech, sage dinosaur Mac (real name: Deus X. Machina) extends friendship and Professor Abdullah Nightingale at the Nocturnal Academy offers a particularly intense and wacky education. Even readers with short attention spans will find themselves captivated by the nonstop parade of madcap characters as treacherous predicaments resolve themselves with charming ease. Magnificent sugarstorms, tornadoes inhabited by old men and "dimensional hiatuses" propel the independent, indefatigable Bluebear to Atlantis, where he must demonstrate the relevance of his experiences in a psychological duel of sorts. Comparisons to Harry Potter aside, Moers's kaleidoscopic expedition is fanciful and endlessly entertaining. 136 b&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–This novel opens with the title character's first memory: as a cub floating in the ocean with a nutshell for a life raft, he heads straight for a giant whirlpool threatening to suck him down. After he's rescued by a boatload of Lilliputian pirates, Bluebear enters into a life (or 13½ lifetimes) filled with humor and adventure. Each life has a different challenge to overcome, pitting him against the likes of headless giants and storytelling contests. The book is one part Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth and two parts Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Each adventure mixes fantasy, science fiction, and fables in a satirical cocktail that readers can't help but gulp down. The quirky writing is definitely strong enough to carry itself, but Moers includes several black-and-white illustrations that enhance the whimsy. With so many little side trips in Bluebear's narrative, the story might frustrate those who prefer straight-line plots. But this is the kind of tale that readers have to just sit back and enjoy, wherever it takes them. The ending does tie the loose threads together. A wild, fun-filled ride.–Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; Tra edition (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585678449
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585678440
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By David Minchin on October 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
I found this book on my bookshelf and read it while on holiday because it looked quite thick. It is tale of pure fantasy, the imagination in the writing and storyline makes this one of the best books ever. The writing is light-hearted and continuously upbeat, Captain Bluebear displays an amazing capacity for optimism which makes you love every second of his lives. The story twists bizare tales which defy prediction and keep you wondering what will happen next. It is witty and comical with many illustrations however the thing I love about this book is that it is a tall tale well told, a classic of creativity and story telling.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Lila Louise on November 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
I kind of resent the fact people keep calling it that. It's basically a book in the style of "The Hitchhiker's Guide..." so I guess if that's a children's book....

It's basically a journey story. It's wonderfully entertaining and very fast. It's basically a book for adults with a childlike imagination. It's fun and engaging. When's the last time you picked up a adult lit book with illustrations? It's just fun.

I highly recommend it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By KH1 VINE VOICE on April 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I just finished _the 13 1/2 lives of Captain Bluebear_ and while it was very funny and sometimes thought provoking, I thought that this book would be the most fun to read out loud to an intelligent and quirky child of nine or ten. [In fact, I'm giving it as a gift as such.] Not that adults wouldn't enjoy it [I did immensely].

_13 1/2 lives_ begins when a ship of minipirates discover a baby bluebear floating in a walnut shell headed for The Malmstrom - a gigantic whirlpool whose nature scientists are still debating. The minipirates teach bluebear about sailing and launching attacks on ships, and about tying knots, but he soon grows to big for their boat and so they leave him on Hobgoblin island. [The end of his first life.]

From Hobgoblin Island [his second life] he escapes on a raft and floats off to sea [ his third life] and so the narrative travels on for 13 1/2 more lives, with no particular destination, and no particular plot, except maybe that Bluebear must survive each life to make it to the next. And, as bluebear himself says, "Some lives are short, others long, and many are middling." The book gets dull at times when the author goes too much into detail about any one life (Mr. Moers is at no loss for imagination), but the rest of the time, I couldn't wait to see what Mr. Moers would come up with next. He is a great satirist, and capably and subtly satirizes himself at many points in the narrative. [Such as the chapter in which Bluebear becomes the King of Lies.]

Highly recommended, and, as I said, would be really fun to read with a kid.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
If Norman Juster had written "The Hobbit," it might have turned out something like "The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear."

It's also the best description of Walter Moers' debut novel, which is probably the best children's book ever written for adults. Set on the mythical continent of Zamonia, Moers sketches out hundreds of strange creatures and surreal adventures, all written in wryly colourful prose.

Bluebear was found floating in a walnut shell, raised by peg-legged hook-handed Minipirates, taught by the talking waves, and kept as entertainment by gruesome hobgoblins. But when he ends up on a giant carnivorous island disguised as a gourmet's paradise, Bluebear is rescued by Deus X. Machina, a Reptilian Rescuer who later brings him to the Nocturnal Academy, run by the seven-brained Professor Abdullah Nightingale.

But when he reaches the end of his education, Nightingale sends Bluebear onto a strange series of adventures -- he falls into a Dimensional Hiatus, is almost eaten by the Spiderwitch, travels through a Bollogg brain, gets swept up in an aging tornado, chases mirages with the Muggs, and finally becomes a Congladiator (lying/storytelling competitor) in Atlantis. But after a match gone bad, Bluebear must flee Atlantis -- and is abducted by the Moloch, a monstrous ship run by the most insidious substance in Zamonia...

Walter Moers should get some kind of award for cramming as many fantastical, bizarre creatures into one book -- carpet dimensions, tiny cyclops, hairy imps, metallic rock-eaters, killer sugar-skeletons, antlered dogs, and headless giants all turn up, and that's only the start. It's a good thing Bluebear gets an encyclopedia in his brain (from Nightingale), or else we would never keep them all straight.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on May 6, 2009
Format: Paperback
There seems to be some confusion over whether this unheralded classic was written for children or for adults. Some of the reviewers here are engaged in unsupported and unyielding categorization, because this book easily transcends narrow descriptions. The epic saga of humble Captain Bluebear would be wonderful for kids with adventurous streaks and deeper thoughts than their peers, as well as adults who can appreciate great feats of the imagination in which the eccentric and absurd are delivered with depth and empathy. Walter Moers has an incredibly powerful and unique imagination, with this book featuring several novels' worth of fantastical settings and offbeat characters.

Few writers could come up with as many cracked feats of the imagination as Moers delivers here, with hundred-mile-tall giants, a desert made out of sugar, a city inside a tornado, and Atlantis as a departing spaceship only hinting at the crazy universe in which humble Captain Bluebear finds himself. (My personal favorite is the surprise turn in the mood of the delicious Gourmet Island.) We also have dozens and dozens of species of fantasy creatures, with a level of variety and complexity that would amaze even Tolkien, if that fantasy master let his whimsical side show.

Captain Bluebear's multiple lifetimes of adventure in the mythical continent of Zamonia are delivered with wackily intricate prose, amazing coincidences, and an absurd parade of dues ex machina's that get the bear out of one stupendous cliffhanger after another. (One character is even named Deus X. Machina.) This kind of absurdity wouldn't go over too well in many less adventurous novels (or with less imaginative readers), but this endlessly wacky yet very deep story truly highlights a mindboggling imagination. Reading this epic fantasy will be the most fun you've had in ages. [~doomsdayer520~]
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