Gareth Hinds’ Beowulf: A Review

Hey, everyone! As my colleague Ronell Whitaker get ready to present at Denver Comic Con this week with award winning graphic novelist Gareth Hinds, it only makes sense that my review is on one of Gareth’s books. This week’s review will be of Gareth’s Beowulf, adapted from the A.J. Church translation published by Seeley & Co. in 1904.

Beowulf-Art-Gareth-Hinds
Yeah, it’s violent…but so is life, and the original Beowulf text.

Synopsis: Do you really need to know the synopsis of Beowulf? It’s over 1,300 years old; where have you been? Beowulf, one of the world’s first super-heroes, comes a great distance to Denmark to help the Danes in the defeat of Grendel, a monster that has been eating dudes for a while. He then goes after Grendel’s mom and ultimately fights a dragon. Pretty cool, right?

Pros (and/or what you can use in the classroom): Beowulf is a classroom staple and has been forever. While some text translations can be difficult to decipher, this graphic novel beautifully penned by Gareth Hinds shows rather than tells the story. When I present on this piece at teaching conferences, and comic-cons, I tend to focus on how I use the text to teach characterization and inference because of the interesting way in which the character of Beowulf is presented by Gareth. The book is also created in a way that naturally leads to discussions on imagery, symbolism, tone, and mood. The book is produced so that if you look at the colors from the side of the book, you can see the four distinct color shifts that are evident in the book (the reasoning for these color shifts makes excellent classroom discussions). This book is fantastic to teach as a companion piece to the text or as a stand-alone experience. As far as classics transformed into graphic novels go, I have yet to find one that I like more than this Beowulf.

Cons: I have two cons to this book: there are no page numbers; the Candlewick Press binding tends to break after a few uses. I love using this book (I use it every year), so I had my students number every fifth page with a small sticky-note to make classroom discussions and citations easier. The binding is a problem that not as easily fixed. I always instruct my students to be careful with the books, but one rough read can have the pages falling to the floor, but this has never kept me from using the book, and if the students are warned, it does help quite a bit.

Rating: This book should have a place in every high school library. I have to give this a 9/10, and the one point deduction is only for the lack of page numbers and the book’s binding. The art and interpretation are fantastic! As an English teacher that used to be an art major, it’s right up my alley.

In closing, read this title; I think you will really like it, and explore more of Hind’s work. Ronell Whitaker is going to be posting a review of Gareth’s Romeo and Juliet (which I also use in the classroom) very soon at www.thecomicbookteacher.com, so please check that out, and follow us both. And if you live in the Denver area, come meet us at the Denver Comic Con this Friday, June 13th as we will be presenting with Gareth on using his books in the classroom. Happy reading!

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