Salt Water Taffy, Vol. 1-3
written by Matthew Loux
At first, Jack and his brother, Benny, aren’t very excited about spending the summer in Chowder Bay, Maine. But their attitude changes when they arrive there. First, they meet fisherman Angus O’Neil, who tells them about Old Salty, the biggest lobster in the whole ocean. But it soon becomes apparent that Old Salty is not going to settle for just ruling the ocean. She has plans for taking over the world and she’s starting with Chowder Bay. Then, on a hike, Jack and Benny must face down a gigantic eagle with a voracious appetite for hats. Surviving that, they discover the ghost of Dr. True, who is eager to set the record straight about the town’s famous hero of the Civil War—a man he claims murdered him!
Anyone who has ever gone on a boring family trip will understand Jack and Benny’s reluctance at the beginning of the Salt Water Taffy series. What makes this story magical is not that the boys learn some great lesson about entertaining themselves in the unplugged world, but that they have fun while still remaining believable eleven- and eight-year-old boys. They are open to new experiences, even if those experiences aren’t quite what they expect: a talking wolf, a ghost, a giant sea monster. Loux’s droll wit makes his story a fun read for more than just kids, though. Adult readers will appreciate little touches such as Jack and Benny’s dad avoiding work by playing with a Game Boy discarded in favor of a treasure hunt.
Loux’s art is another plus of the series. Using thick black lines and sharply pointed curves, he creates a scene that, like his plot, mimics reality, but makes it so much more appealing. His palette is a deceptively simple black-and-white, but the series loses nothing by not being in color. Each panel has tiny small details to bring alive the beach scenes, animal fur, building interiors, and so forth. At important dialogue scenes, Loux will often take a moment to just highlight the characters, leaving off background entirely and forcing the eye to focus. This is indicative of his strength with pacing, important in a humorous action series such as this.
The Salt Water Taffy series is as much of a treasure as anything Jack and Benny dig up on their excursions. Readers, especially those who are late elementary school through middle school age, looking for fun adventures set in a world just this side of realistic will laugh along with Jack, Benny, Angus, and the rest of the Cowder Bay inhabitants as they enjoy one long, exciting summer.