Bea Wolf

by Zach Weinersmith (Author)

Bea Wolf
Reading Level: 6th − 7th Grade

A modern middle-grade graphic novel retelling of Beowulf, featuring a gang of troublemaking kids who must defend their tree house from a fun-hating adult who can instantly turn children into grown-ups.

Listen! Hear a tale of mallow-munchers and warriors who answer candy's clarion call!

Somewhere in a generic suburb stands Treeheart, a kid-forged sanctuary where generations of tireless tykes have spent their youths making merry, spilling soda, and staving off the shadow of adulthood. One day, these brave warriors find their fun cut short by their nefarious neighbor Grindle, who can no longer tolerate the sounds of mirth seeping into his joyless adult life.

As the guardian of gloom lays siege to Treeheart, scores of kids suddenly find themselves transformed into pimply teenagers and sullen adults! The survivors of the onslaught cry out for a savior--a warrior whose will is unbreakable and whose appetite for mischief is unbounded. They call for Bea Wolf.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
Weinersmith's richly evocative turns of phrase run the gamut from hilarious to heart-rending and maintain the flavor of the original without bogging the pace down amid the kennings. Boulet's illustrations imbue the shenanigans with gleeful energy and a touch of dark absurdity that children, seeing their own fears and triumphs reflected, will delight in.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 5 Up--High up in the halls of Treeheart, children party for as long as their bodies can stand. Their sweets and games are glorious to behold, but the noise disturbs Mr. Grindle below. Grindle's touch ages his victims, transforming some of the erstwhile partygoers into "aching, anxious, angry at the internet" dullards who obsess over cable news, stock markets, and hygiene. The remaining children are demoralized by his constant cleaning and straightening of their otherwise epic clubhouse. Bea Wolf, who is white, appears one-third of the way into the story, the latest among generations of child-heroes renowned for feats of strength and bravery. The children of Treeheart are a diverse bunch, including Black king Roger and his war-guard Wendy, who is Asian. Several story elements are lightly adapted from the original Beowulf and will reward anyone familiar with the tale. Weinersmith's iambic alliterations will invite intense imitation from readers. Bea and Grindle's powers pale in comparison to those of artist Boulet, whose work with texture, moonlight, and distorted faces stuns at every turn. Back matter includes a history of Beowulf, how it became a popular legend, a comparison between Old English and Weinersmith's modern homage, and some Boulet sketches. VERDICT Readers will wish they could pledge their plastic swords to defending Treeheart and the sanctity of wild childhoods everywhere.--Thomas Maluck

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Taking the source material as a starting point, this lovingly crafted retelling sets Beowulf among bold suburban children for whom mischief and misbehavior are all. The remix kicks off with an entire chronology of kid-lords, starting with Carl, whose discovery of a golden treasure begins a legendary toy hoard, and continuing down the line to Roger, who establishes a magnificent tree house. Treeheart, as it is known, attracts the wrath of joyless adult Mr. Grindle, whose touch ages kids out of childhood. When Grindle wreaks havoc on Treeheart and adults its inhabitants, mighty five-year-old Bea Wolf, "forged in sparkles and fury," comes to aid Roger and "banish the hall-beast." Leaning into alliteration, wordplay, and imagery-rich kennings, Weinersmith (Soonish) creates a joyously lyric, rapid-fire epic that honors the original's intricate linguistic constructions. Close-hatched b&w cartooning from French artist Boulet vividly illuminates the text, presenting in full spreads and paneled vignettes a racially diverse cast of fierce, distinctively rendered children. It's a truly fresh, inventive remix that privileges childhood's insular sensibilities alongside an unsettling truth: "Time lingers for no kid." Extensive back matter affectionately and accessibly contextualizes Beowulf's history and construction. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"This is true bardic glory, a wild embrace of absurdity and wit with exaggerated language used for maximum impact...Boulet's illustrations are no less epic than the story, and the finely lined black and white drawings invite careful examination, with the payoff being clever visual side jokes."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review

"Bea Wolf is
a) Beowulf retold for kids;
b) a genuinely funny story in its own right;
c) a pretty much perfect melding of words and the most charming illustrations in an alliterative romp through the oldest surviving English poem, served fresh and fabulous; and
d) glorious, accurate, profoundly silly, and hilariously profound." —Neil Gaiman

"As haunting, hilarious and perplexing as the ancient stories one hears around the campfire, castle or cafeteria."—Lemony Snicket

"The story that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien and entranced Seamus Heaney has now been reworked with vivid illustrations, heroic kids, and extra Fudgsicles. The result is the most delightful, inventive, joyful epic ever created. I simply can't express how much I love Bea Wolf." —Tim Harford, host of Cautionary Tales

"In this uproarious rampage of rowdiness, the Bea Wolf is heroically preteen, when normal horrible kids fight off adult monsters trying to make them grow up. Highly recommended for grandparents and grandkids of all ages." —Dr. Kevin Kiernan, Editor of the Electronic Beowulf, Emeritus Professor of English, and T. Marshall Hahn, Senior Professor of Arts and Sciences

"What a joyous romp! I was utterly enthralled." —Dr. Jennifer Neville, Reader in Anglo-Saxon Literature, Royal Holloway, University of London

"It's Seuss and Dahl's mutant offspring, gorgeous and darkly witty." —Mary Roach, New York Times-bestselling author of Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law

Zach Weinersmith

Zach Weinersmith is the creator of the popular webcomic SMBC, the creator of the nerd comedy show BAHFest, and the co-author of the New York Times bestselling popular science book, Soonish.

Boulet is a French cartoonist living in Paris. He's had about 40 books published, most of them for young readers. He also worked on multiple volumes in the Dungeon Zenith series with Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
First Second
Publication date
March 20, 2023
BISAC categories
CGN014000 - Comics & Graphic Novels | Humorous
Library of Congress categories

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