Salt Water Taffy
Matthew Loux has created a modern classic of children’s adventure with Salt Water Taffy, “The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny”.
Jack and Benny are brothers, and their parents have taken them to a small town in Maine for the summer. The videogame batteries are dead, there’s no television, but Chowder Bay has other things to draw attention, like “The Legend of Old Salty”, a giant lobster.
Loux draws with a thick line that gives everyone incredibly sharp chins and knees, but it also provides a solid presence and a great sense of energy, perfect for exploration of the unknown. (And with his edges, it’s also ideal for drawing lobsters and their claws.) He does a terrific job of capturing the feel of a summer family trip, from the sibling squabbling in the car to the aimless days open to whatever happens. His backgrounds give an authentic sense of place, the feel of a small vacation town.
There are action-packed incidents, but they develop in a relaxed framework, as though someone were saying “oh, and let me tell you about when this happened.” The boys visit the local taffy store, have a family campfire, and check out the summer house where the first hints of something mysterious make themselves known. The kids act like kids, smacking each other but working together when needed. The tone is relaxed, but plenty happens, thanks to Angus the old fisherman.
It’s the details that stick with me. Benny builds a clever trap while Angus and Jack are telling tall tales. The lobster boat is adorable and funny. The taffy flavors. The secret agent from out of town. This is the kind of summer vacation you wish you had, and it’s an excellent read to fire young imaginations.
This will be a series; the second book is due in September. Matthew Loux has been interviewed online. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)