The Thirteen And A Half Lives Of Captain Bluebear – Walter Moers

This book, now, this book, this book is really something else.

The title should give you as clue as to the contents, a serious of preposterous events from the complicated lives of a blue bear. There are ocean wonders, such as minipirates, carnivorous island paradises and a black slave ship commanded by a megalomaniacal chemical compound; terrifying beasts like the cyclopedian bollogs, treacherous troglotrolls, and hypnotic spiderwitch, and sci-fi elements including the dimensional hiatus, a spaceship disguised as a city, and a gelatinous prince. This book has pretty much everything. The only books I could really compare it to are Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities and Clive Barker’s Abarat.

The best thing about The Thirteen And A Half Lives of Captain Bluebear is the pictures, and that’s great because there sure are a lot of them. They’re black and white sketches, the kind that I assume are drawn with an ink pen. The absurd fluidity of the images remind me of the pictures in a Doctor Seuss book, and their shaded intricacy bring to mind Christopher Riddell’s illustrations in The Edge Chronicles. This book supports my theory that fantasy books are better if they are illustrated by their authors.

Trying to pin down a target audience for this novel is as challenging as boxing it into a genre. Younger children may be intimidated by the book’s thickness, and the adults alienated by the pictures. I’d recommend this book for smart primary kids, and those who are young at heart. Perhaps the cardiovascularly young can read this book to kids unnerved by large books.

True fact: this book has been adapted into a German musical. (This book was originally written in German, and Captain Bluebear is fixture of a kids’ show over there.) The Germans have musical adaptions of Rocky and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, so you can be certain that they’d only choose the best to perform on stage. Besides, terrible books rarely make it to the stage.

All I’m saying, is that you should read this book. With it, Walter Moers has won himself a place on the my List of Authors I Must Read. His other books may be mentioned on this blog.

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