Graphic Novel Review: Bea Wolf written by Zach Weinersmith, art by Boulet

Bea Wolf written by Zach Weinersmith, art by Boulet. First Second, 2023. 9781250776297. With an extensive Afterword by Weinersmith (also illustrated by Boulet) about the poem, its history and translations, that even has a great explanation of kennings, which he uses extensively throughout this book. Plus some pages of Boulet’s sketches.

This is a bizarre and beautiful thing. I listened to Weinersmith talk about it a bit at the American Library Association convention, where he appeared with his daughter Ada, which is cool since it’s pretty clear she got him to keep writing and was the first reader and even had nice things to say about Boulet’s art, which clearly buoyed Boulet’s spirits (as he explains in the Acknowledgements in the end).

This is a 600-some line illustrated, epic poem based on Beowulf that owes something to Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, and Weinersmith’s English teachers. I have never read anything like it before, and I don’t think there’s ever been anything like it before. It’s about a gang of kids in a treehouse filled with toys and candy and fun that is attacked by a monster who does the most unspeakable thing possible — he steals children’s childhoods. And it’s about the heroic girl who comes to face him. It is absolutely awesome, both silly and serious, and full of language that’s fun to read aloud and illustrations that are fun to look at.

Some kids will enjoy it, and some adults will enjoy it, but I think far more adults and kids will enjoy it together. In fact, I’d read this with my daughter now if she’d let me. (She’s in her early twenties, and after I tell her about it, or if she reads this review, I hope she might.)


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