From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–A great green monster, cool Viking gear, and powerful, concise language mark this book, which should be called Beowulf 1A
, since it tells only half of Part One of the poem. Straightening out the epic's chronology, Kimmel begins with Beowulf's youthful exploits as a troll- and serpent-slayer (but not as a marathon swimmer, a boast he defends in the poem). Then the telling moves "across the sea" (a map would be helpful) to Heorot, where Grendel is wreaking havoc. Beowulf disarms to fight fairly with the monster, and after a fierce struggle literally dis-arms him. Grendel sinks, dying, into the muck, and the Danes rejoice: end of tale. Manic mothers are all too common, and maybe too scary: Grendel's Mom's scene is cut, and the dragon that Beowulf dies killing, 50 years later, is not even a shadow on the story. Nor are there any Christian references, which pepper the poem (but probably not the legend it enshrined). Fisher's large-scale compositions, easily visible across a reading group, feature bright tones for sails, shields, and jerkins bracketed by sky and sea (or by a matte gold ground). Grendel is a pustular jade. Kimmel approaches the stylistic markers of the poem too timidly: "swan-road" would be livelier than "the sea," and "sinews snapped and bone-joints burst" better than "Grendel's shoulder burst." But let's hope that a Part Two from these collaborators will provide a chance to paint a dragon and to throw in litotes or kenning.–Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI
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Gr. 3-5. In presenting English literature's oldest known epic poem in picture-book form, seasoned folklorists and frequent collaborators Kimmel and Fisher tackle a challenge that may be as formidable as Grendel himself. Kimmel retells the poem's best-known portion in accessible prose, beginning with examples of Beowulf's previous superhuman feats and concluding with Grendel's demise. While Kimmel has not included any of the original's evocative kennings (whale-road
etc.), his rendition occasionally reflects another distinctive element of Anglo-Saxon poetry; Hrothgar's remark that Grendel "has consumed the bravest of my fighting men, gnawed the bones of my noblest companions" invokes the characteristic scheme of reiterations divided by a caesura. Everett's dyspeptic palette and stark compositions will not be to every reader's taste, and frequently the artist's compositional choices impose perplexing barriers to the skull-thumping, limb-detaching action. The most effective spreads, though, emanate a potent grandeur; it's hard to imagine a better introduction to the epic tradition than the double-page depiction of Beowulf's sea journey, his longboat rearing "like a seabird" over inky waves tipped with white sea foam. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved