Synopses & Reviews
When sleep was at its deepest, night at its blackest, up from the mist-filled marsh came Grendel stalking...
Thus begins the battle between good and evil, for lying in wait and anxious to challenge the ogre Grendel is a young man, strong-willed and fire-hearted. This man is Beowulf, whose heroic dragon-slaying deeds were sung in the courts of Anglo-Saxon England more than a thousand years ago.
Award-winning author and illustrator James Rumford forges his own account of Beowulf with the few Anglo-Saxon words still present in our language. These ironstrong ancient words recall the boldness of the original poem and, together with Rumford's pen-and-ink illustrations, they fashion an unforgettable story of a hero who never gave up no matter how difficult the struggle no matter how deep and dark the night.
"What you have heard before is nothing.' So begins this strikingly illustrated adaptation of Beowulf. Restricting his vocabulary almost exclusively to words with Anglo-Saxon origins, Rumford (Seeker of Knowledge) fashions a type of epic language: 'It was then that Wiglaf showed his true heart-strength. Shieldless, with seared hands, he stuck his gleaming sword into the dragon. This freed Beowulf, who drew a knife from his belt and buried it deep inside the fire-snake.' Rumford's own 'heart-strength' comes through in his art, pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations that convey the ninth-century action with 21st-century immediacy. Large panels offer detailed views of pivotal scenes, and Rumford's expert use of line generates an almost visible degree of motion; when Grendel's mother menaces Beowulf, he seems virtually to fall as she advances with her ominously curved knife. Behind the art and text panels in the first two sections lurks the dragon that is to prove so crucial in the end; in the concluding section, increasing numbers of crows foreshadow Beowulf's death. A very skillful presentation. Ages 9-12. (Aug.) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Superb on all counts....Rumford even manages to hint at the poem's emotional depths in his concise retelling, which is written almost entirely using English words of Anglo-Saxon origin." Horn Book Guide to Children
Superb on all counts--from the elegant bookmaking to the vigorous, evocative prose . . . to the pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations that strikingly recall the work of Edmund Dulac. Rumford even manages to hint at the poem's emotional depths in his concise retelling, which is written almost entirely using English words of Anglo-Saxon origin. The book design is similarly fundamental, with the three distinct parts of the story delineated by green, blue, and yellow backgrounds. Most effective of all is the dragon lurking--sinuously, patiently--behind the panels of the first two sections, foreshadowing Beowulf's eventual fate.
Horn Book, Starred
"[A] stunningly strong and melodic text that begs to be read aloud...sinuous line and expressive postures add fuel..."--The Bulletin The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This hearty account...has terrific art that conveys terror and triumph." The San Francisco Chronicle 11/18/07 The San Francisco Chronicle
"[C]ommanding illustrations and concise prose retellings...make the most of the epic's narrative power." Star Tribune 11/22/07 The Star Tribune
"[V]ery cleverly adapted." NYTBR June 2007 The New York Times Book Review
"Breathtaking pen-and-ink and watercolor paintings." SLJ December 2007 School Library Journal
About the Author
Master storyteller James Rumford combines his love for art and history in his picture books. Each of his books is vastly different in its content, design, and illustrations but one aspect remains constant throughout his work: his passion about his subjects. Rumford, a resident of Hawaii, has studied more than a dozen languages and worked in the Peace Corps, where he traveled to Africa, Asia, and Afghanistan. He draws from these experiences and the history of his subject when he is working on a book. His book Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing was a 2005 Sibert Honor winner.