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Salt Water Taffy Vol. 1: The Legend of Old Salty (Oni Press)

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swt-header.jpgNo friends, no Game Boy, no TV--What could be worse than being dragged to coastal Maine for the summer? Try having your candy stolen by giant lobsters!

 

 

86 pgs. black and white; $5.95

(W / A: Matthew Loux)

 Benny and Jack Putnam are brothers being dragged up to Maine by their writer dad for what promises to be an exceptionally boring summer. True, they are going to the seaside, but what fun is that compared to blasting away space aliens on your Game Boy? When the car-weary family finally arrives at Chowder Bay, Maine, Dad's attempt to mollify his sons' involves a stop at Dr. True's Saltwater Taffy store. A hit with the boys, the local wildlife also seems taken with the small shop...

The grandiose beach house means little to the brothers, especially since there's no TV, but they make do. As Jack and Benny explore their summer home, they spy a mysterious shape far below on the beach, but think little of it until they meet Captain Angus the next day. A crusty fisherman, Angus tells the boys the legend of "Old Salty," a monstrous crustacean who would probably be at home with Jaws and Moby Dick. Intrigued but by no means convinced, the boys head back into town only to discover that Dr. True's Taffy Store has been robbed! As Jack, Benny and Angus leave the scene, they stumble on lobsters lurking in the nearby bushes, an ill-gotten booty clutched in their claws—taffy! Interrogation of the clawed fiends reveals that Old Salty is behind the heist, and Jack and Benny team up with Angus to track her down.

The cover to Salt Water Taffy Vol. 1 by Matthew Loux. Click for a larger image.The latest graphic novel from Matthew Loux (author of SideScrollers, one of YALSA's 2006 top 10 graphic novels for teens) takes a while to get on its feet, and I was initially confused when what seemed like a standard "bored city kids find adventure in country" story suddenly threw in talking lobsters. Personally, I felt as though Loux had been desperately trying to contain an innate wackiness until about halfway through the book, then said "To heck with it," and let loose. He should have done this from page one, but perhaps felt the traditional reader might be turned off if introduced too soon. The brothers' interaction with each other also seemed far too cordial for an 8 and 11-year old—shouldn't they be fighting more? Perhaps not when there are sea monsters to hunt. — but later on became more natural.

Loux's artwork in Salt Water Taffy is genuine and detailed; I'm certain I could find his seaside town if I went up to Maine. He has bold, sharply-pointed outlines on everything, and his characters have a cartoonish, Gumby-like quality to their movements, which are usually extreme. Given that the main characters are young boys, however, the style seems appropriate. (A later bed-jumping scene strikes as spot-on.) The realism, if that's what you're looking for, is in the scenery and backgrounds, which I again praise for a photo-like aesthetic.

For a first volume, Loux delivers pretty well with "Legend of Old Salty," and I am intrigued enough to seek out volume 2. For 8-14-year olds, this graphic novel would be a likely success. Older readers may find it initially trite. Still, there is whimsy in Salt Water Taffy, and it makes me wish I had summers by the ocean. | Elizabeth Schweitzer

Click here to read a whopping 38-page preview of Salt Water Taffy Vol. 1, courtesy of Oni Press — that's nearly half the book!
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