When Joe and Wishbone must confront a scary neighbor who owns a big mean dog, Wishbone imagines himself as the hero Beowulf of Geatland who helps King Hrothgar rid his kingdom of the terrible monster Grendel and his equally fearsome mother.
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Grade 4-7?The temptation is strong to write off this simplified adaptation that inaugurates a new series about public television's Wishbone. However, Strickland's novelization of a yet-to-be produced episode might just get kids hooked on a bona fide classic, the 1200-year-old tale of Beowulf and his exploits. The formulaic, insipid "parallel" story, featuring the contemporary Talbot family, is also here, unabashedly serving as much of a youthful hook as does the literary Jack Russell terrier, who not only narrates both stories but daydreams himself into the starring role. The "Wishbone Classics" series (HarperCollins) has more straightforward, fleshed-out abridgements of classic tales (minus the Talbots) and limits Wishbone to the role of didactic narrator. This bizarre anthropomorphic mix really does work, oddly enough, to which the popularity of, and accolades heaped upon, the PBS series readily attest. Strickland pretty much abides by the show's tongue-in-cheek prescription (Beowulf "disarms" Grendel; the Geats boastfully bill themselves as "monster busters" who have sailed to the aid of the beleaguered Danes, whose population has been steadily diminishing as snacks for Grendel). Mind you, it takes a leap of faith to picture a diminutive dog as a medieval superman, but Reading Rainbow graduates, whose imaginations?and reading skills?have been lovingly nurtured for many years now, shouldn't find the transition too discombobulating. Still, the image of Beowulf as a pooch may be difficult to shake down the road when writing that college theme paper.?John Sigwald, Unger Memorial Library, Plainview, TX
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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