Beowulf The Brave by Oakley Graham
Published by Big Sky Publishing
Award winning English writer Oakley Graham takes a departure from writing original children’s fiction and turns his hand to the adaptation of one of English literature’s longest poems in Beowulf the Brave, A retelling of the epic Beowulf poem.
Quite a tall order to set for him, you might say, and Oakley does a commendable job for his primary school audience. Though extremely condensed and watered down for the PG-market, the main gist of the Old English tale is preserved, and like Horrible Histories, will no doubt pique the interest of young readers who like their tales a little on the macabre side.
Beowulf the Brave opens from the perspective of a children’s bedtime story with a little boy being read to by his father. His imagination is instantly sparked by the image of a monster Grendel causing havoc in a peaceful kingdom from long ago, and he becomes the personification of the legendary Beowulf, brandishing his sword and shield. Though very unlikely, this small but brave hero takes on Grendel and slays this otherwise unstoppable force, leading to more trouble from the monstrous realm.
The Beowulf legend deals with really quite serious issues, not the least of which are violence, destruction and death but Graham doesn’t apologise for this; he writes the tale matter-of-factly and avoids the gory details.
With its quest theme, male hero and ogres and dragons, this historical picture book will no doubt have the widest appeal with young boys and they are likely to be satisfied with the simplified telling of this great tale. The illustrations are wonderful and the colour scheme conjures up that medieval, torch-lit feeling of a fairytale world with knights conquering against evil foes. The little boy as great hero is also quite comical and takes the edge off what is actually quite a dire ending.
Beowulf is not necessarily the first historical poem I would choose to turn into a picture book but after all, why not? It is full of all the elements that kids love - action, adventure, heroes and monsters.
A skilfully short re-telling of a 3,000 line epic poem, Beowulf the Brave will excite young adventure seekers and leave them wanting more.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Oakley Graham
Illustrated: Emi Ordas
Title: Beowulf The Brave
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Published: June 2016