From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7–Throughout his childhood, pudgy, bespectacled Walker Bean has listened to his grandfather's tales of adventure on the open seas. Now Walker finds himself smack-dab in the middle of his own thrilling escapade when his ailing grandfather asks him to return a human skull to a trench deep in the ocean floor. Once part of a skeleton of a witch's enemy, this skull has now been transformed into pearl. Armed with his grandfather's journal, an amazing message bottle, assistance from a few trusted friends, and his own clever and inventive mind, Walker braves pirates, evil witches, and his own fears in this tale of derring-do and skullduggery. Renier's tale is a youngster's dream: adventure with a capital A. The graphic art moves the story along with excellent page layout and a brilliant color palette that serve as fireworks, lighting up the pages with cannon muzzle blasts and ships ablaze. Clever writing, though sometimes a little convoluted for young readers, is filled with humor and puns. Readers should be prepared to suspend all logic and ties to reality. They will find a ship with a garden complete with large fruit trees and a gardener who practices composting onboard. The crew uses matches and employs phrases such as "Holy Guacamole." But for those who are ready to lay aside these concerns for a while and take off with Walker in an adventure of a lifetime, this is an exciting choice.Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
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*Starred Review* At first glance, this graphic novel looks like a mishmash of time-honored seafaring fantasy-adventure tropes: ancient curses with vague hints of Atlantis and a lost treasure; pirates more lovable than rascally pitted against greedy starched-shirt colonial naval types; and of course the outwardly meek but plucky-under-fire boy hero. But while Renier certainly hits all of those notes, he isn't content to simply let the story coast once under way—which takes only a panel or two to get cracking. Instead, he keeps throwing newer and neater elements into the fray. The excitement centers around a cursed skull stolen from the lair of two deep-sea crustacean witches. Like all who look upon the skull, Walker's beloved Grandpa falls deathly ill when he finds it, and the boy sets out to return the skull from whence it came. In two of the more impressively clever feats, the inventive lad turns a pirate ship into a proto-all-terrain vehicle and uses an enormous blank canvas to recreate the night sky, subverting the navigational course of the ship. The generous page size lets reader dive into Renier's quavery and painstakingly detailed cartooning, and he really shows off his stuff with a bounty of full-splash dazzlers. Though a smidgen light on characterization, this comic really is just about everything you want from a rip-roaring adventure: exciting, deep, funny, and scary, with tremendous villains and valor galore. Grades 5-8. --Ian Chipman
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