The Unsinkable Walker Bean
by Aaron Renier
Cover Artist: Illustrated: Aaron Renier; Colored: Alec Longstreth
Review by Gayle Surrette
First Second Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596434530
Date: 17 August 2010 List Price $13.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Walker Bean's grandfather is a naval admiral and his father a navy captain; naturally he's interested in tales of the ocean and the creatures within. His grandfather loves to share his love of ocean lore and the story begins with a tale of revenge and incarceration and remote viewing. Two sisters imbue a wall of skulls with magic to see what goes on in the world and if a human looks into a skull, unless they have thick blood, they'll die. Walker and his grandfather discuss what they'd be willing to risk death to know, months later his grandfather has returned and he's dying from having looked into the skull of the witches and the only cure is to return the skull to them. But Walker's father has made a deal to get lots of money by selling the skull and he refuses to consider returning it. Leaving Walker no choice but to steal it and set out on his own to save his grandfather.
No quest is easy, and Walker is kidnapped by pirates, the skull is stolen, and still he preservers – not just to save his grandfather but to save all the friends he has made along is journey.
Walker is an unlikely hero. He's just a boy who loves his grandfather, inventing strange machines, learning new things, and loving the sea in all its moods. Renier has created a young boy who is forced to find himself and what he's capable of when those he loves are in danger.
The artwork is colorful but moody with lots of blue tones – there is little sweetness and light in the drawings. However, the characters are easily told apart and each has a unique look that matches their personality. There's also often a bit of whimsy, especially when a tall tale is being related to the reader.
This is a rollicking adventure story of a quest to save a loved one. But, with pirates, witches, a skull of knowledge, some truly shocking revelations, and more than a hint of danger to our hero, it's a story that it hard to put down.