Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath
Written and illustrated by: Alexis E. Fajardo
Publisher: Bowler Hat Comics
Format: Softcover, 7 x 9, 208 pages, Black and White, $15.95
Just the other day a group of pre-service teachers asked me if I knew any "good adaptations or spin-offs" of traditional literature. As if to sprinkle the question with extra difficulty one student added "most middle level students really like series books. Any of those?"
"Yes!" I responded.
Alexis Farjado's Kid Beowulf series is an excellent reimagination of the traditional Beowulf tale. Familiar to generation-upon-generation of student readers, Beowulf has typically found its way onto almost every canonical list of "must reads." Today, however, teachers have the opportunity to teach Beowulf to an entirely new generation of readers, readers whose daily lives are spent reading both print-text literacies and image literacies. With Beowulf's legacy in mind, and Fajardo's graphic novel reimagination of a modern-kid-friendly version of the tale freshly checked off my reading list, I immediately ran back to my office to grab Farjado's version and bring it back to my teachers.
An engaging, action-packed, and modern adventure that smoothly introduces middle level and high school level students to the traditional Beowulf storyline, Farjado has hit a contemporary, literary home-run. While Farjado's Kid Beowulf is historically thoughtful and well-researched, it is also creative and freshly exciting, for it creates new room and space for Beowulf to recreate itself for generations to come.
English Language Arts Elements of Story
Plot: The first book in the Kid Beowulf series, Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath takes a look back in time at the disturbing and yet intriguing origins of two familiar twin brothers, Beowulf and Grendel
Setting: Geatland, Germania, Brittania, Francia, Hispania, Italia, Lydia, Kieven Rus
• The Danes, from Daneland: King Shild, his sons Hrothgar and Orgier, and their Great Dane Wulf
• The Heathobards, from Germainia: led by Dagref, Dagref's daughter Froda, Yrs and her father Ingeld are the newest additions to Daneland
• The Geats: longtime allies of the Danes, Hrethel is their leader, Heglic his son, and Edgetho a loyal and adopted son to this family
• The Dragon: oldest living creature in the story, lives deep below the water in the meer (or a cave), was present during Gertude's birth, and also present at the birth of the twin brothers, Grendel and Beowulf
• Welthow: Hrothgar's fururisic bride, and ultimately Queen of Daneland
Themes: Legend, Fantasy, Family Loyalty, Mysticism, War and Strife, Consequences, Vengeance, Wisdom, Man and Nature, Man and the Supernatural
Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Homer's The Odyssey, any Star Wars text, movie or graphic novel, Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds (graphic novel version), Kevin Crossely-Holland's Arthur Trilogy, Belle Yang's Forget Sorrow
Teaching Recommendations For Advanced Middle School Readers and High School Readers
Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*
- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE
7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
9. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
10. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Suggested Creative Writing Lesson Plan
To begin, teachers and librarians should prepare and introduce the historical fact that Beowulf has stood the test of literary time and fame. Perhaps on a timeline with a few sample reading selections, this background will provide a sense of depth for middle and high school level readers.
Following on the heels of this historical platform, teachers can then present students with Farjado's new, reimagined version of the story. With one or more of Farjado's Kid Beowulf texts read and discussed, teachers can then really focus on how Farjado rewrote and reimagined a traditional story for modern readers. For instance, they can ask their students to do the same thing with the following writing prompt: "After learning about Beowulf's history and Farjado's reimagining of the story, what storyline seeds would you like to pull out, reimagine, and build upon in your own rewriting of this traditional text?"
A creative writing lesson with an infinite amount of possibility, teachers and students alike are sure to enjoy not only rewriting their own versions, but also explaining why the rewrote their version in their own, unique way.
Note: Students should be encouraged to reimagine the story in either print-text format or graphic novel format.
Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.