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Review: The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier

The Unsinkable Walker Bean
By Aaron Renier
First Second
ISBN: 9781596434530
Grades 5-8
In Stores August 17, 2010

*Best New Books*

You gotta admire an author who goes for broke. Aaron Renier does just that in his mythical, supernatural, swashbuckling (I could go on) graphic novel adventure The Unsinkable Walker Bean. At turns exciting, mysterious, creepy, and beautiful. Consider me completely won over.

While Renier spins an impressive  web of characters and story elements, it all comes down to a cursed skull. Formerly guarded by two giant sea creatures who want it back, the skull is both dangerous and valuable. Simply looking at it has made Walker’s grandfather sick. He instructs Walker to return the artifact to its owners to cure his condition, but everyone else, it seems, has their own interests at heart. In his quest to follow grandpa’s wishes, Walker encounters pirates, said hideous giant sea creatures, and a mysterious man that may not be a man.

Renier reaches for an epic quality here, which means that in the first quarter of the book, there are many more questions than answers. While this means the rewards are bigger in the end, it also takes patience on the part of the reader. Thankfully, the action (appearing early and often) keeps the interest level high.

The cartoon illustrations expertly propel the story, with occasional two page spreads that inspire awe.

Full of thrilling action and impressive depth, Walker Bean will likely go down as one of the best graphic novels of 2010. The back of the book includes a page of “Early sketches of book #2”. Sign me up.

Review copy from publisher

Also reviewed by Reading Rants, Shelf-Employed.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I reviewed this one too, and I think “epic” is a good description. It’s a high-seas, high-stakes adventure! I understand that it’s the first in a planned trilogy. Lisa

    • I just added your review link in the post. Thanks for your comments – sounds like we’re in agreement on this one.