Kid Beowulf and the Rise of El Cid is the latest in the Kid Beowulf series of graphic novels from Lex Fajardo, which make the classics approachable and fun. In Lex’s re-envisioning, Beowulf and Grendel are 12-year-old twin brothers, travelling the world (with their constant companion, Hama the pig) meeting many of the great epic heroes.
One of my favorite aspects of each Kid B book is a short opening section that tells the “classic” story as it has come down to us, with full drama and poetry the way the bards might have sung it, and then the story switches over to Lex’s own retelling. For Kid B and El Cid, many may remember the classic movie with Charlton Heston and Sophia Lauren, but Lex takes on the story at a much earlier time, when a young not-yet-El-Cid Rodrigo is still struggling to find his place in the world. Along the way, young Beowulf and Grendel unknowingly take a few more steps toward their destiny, and (unintentionally) even start the first “running with the bulls” in Pamplona!
I’ve liked the Kid Beowulf series from the start, but it gets even better in this third book. There is new depth and shading, in the art, in the characters, and in the storytelling, which is very appropriate for young readers who are growing up with the twin brothers Beowulf and Grendel. In this installment there are also some strong female roles (Ximena, Queen Urraca, and Boudi), and a story that very organically touches on always-relevant issues of tolerance and empathy, without losing Kid B’s signature sense of humor and playfulness. I highly recommend it for both kids and grown-ups — I love it! (5 stars in Goodreads)
Kid Beowulf and the Rise of El Cid, by Alexis E. Fajardo. Published by Kid Beowulf Comics (2013). Previous books in the series were Kid Beowulf and the Blood-Bound Oath (2008) and Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland (2010).
The dogs are going to be 13 in May, and they’ve really started showing their age in the last year. So for our big vacation this year, Nancy and I decided to take them on a tour of the Oregon coast, to combine two of their favorite things, car rides and the beach, every day for a week :-).
We have a ramp for the car, which they much prefer to being lifted into and out of the back, and they get tired out much more quickly — no more jumping or running — but their tails still start wagging whenever they get to climb up for a car ride.
For the first few days, we stayed at a pet-friendly B&B near Cannon Beach, just a short walk from the beach. Maggie especially loves the ocean, which she made very clear by the way she led at the end of her leash all the way until she could wet her feet in the waves, and by her big big smile.
A few days later, we drove further down the coast to another pet-friendly B&B in Depoe Bay. It wasn’t quite as convenient to the beach, so we had to drive the pups to get to the water, but it was just another reason for a fun car ride as far as they were concerned.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: beach biking. It is an interesting fact about Oregon that the entire coastline from California to Washington has been legally considered a public highway ever since 1911, with the public having the right to “free and uninterrupted use of the beaches”. I guess this guy is just exercising his rights :-).
Hank and Maggie aren’t up any more for the kind of long or strenuous walks they used to love when they were younger, so after each day’s beach walk we’d find a nice shady spot to park so they could take a well-earned nap. While they snoozed, Nancy and I could check out more of the amazing scenery. Our southernmost point on this trip was Cape Perpetua, which had a trail that led down to the Devil’s Churn, a wave-carved cave whose ceiling has collapsed, leading at high tides (we’re told) to waves throwing spray hundreds of feet in the air. Luckily, we were there at low tide, so we could get a close up view safely.
The trip wasn’t all beaches. We also stopped for a few forest hikes too, which were very welcome on the warmer sunnier days. Munson Creek Falls was a short 1/2 mile walk and pretty level, which was about as far as the dogs wanted to go. I don’t think they were particularly impressed by the waterfall, but Nancy and I thought it was lovely.
April was the perfect time for the trip. It was far enough into the year that the days weren’t winter-short and the weather was great, but the beaches didn’t have the summer crowds that will be coming soon. That’s my kind of vacation!
What a difference a few weeks of rain and sun make! We planted our tiny garden back in February, checked in on it a few weeks ago, but lately it’s really taken off. Yesterday, Nancy clipped the top off the tall kale just before it flowered, to add some “kale raab” to accent our soup for dinner, and we’ve been able to start clipping arugula and baby kale leaves for salads.
I’m curious to see if this small garden will grow fast enough to provide salad greens for the two of us all summer. At this point, it’s almost no work, with the greens growing thick enough to crowd out weeds and fast enough to keep ahead of the slugs and bugs.
For the “wow” finish to this recap of last year’s trip to New Zealand, here are some pictures of two of the most amazing locations we visited: Fox Glacier and Milford Sound.
We took a guided tour and hike on the glacier, dropped off by helicopter high up on the glacier’s upper area. Our tour guide was a Nepalese Sherpa who had also climbed on Mount Everest, so we were in good hands. Even so, there was a large case with emergency supplies (tents, food, medical supplies, etc) in case we ended up being stranded overnight.
We were also provided with crampons, strap-on steel claws for our boots. Without them, it is literally impossible to stand up on the glacier’s surface, which is (obviously) solid ice. Even with them, you need to take care while walking to take short strides and step down firmly to let the crampons get a good grip.
We were warned by our Sherpa very seriously that if we dropped anything (camera, phone, scarf, …) to just let it go. The most common cause of accidents is someone lunging after a dropped item, slipping, and then sliding along after it toward some deep crevasse. He told us that if we dropped something, we could just pick it up at the “lost and found” at the bottom of the glacier, in oh about 80 years :-).
Potential dangers aside, it was an amazing place. Our guide led us through ice caves where the light filtering through becomes a deep blue glow. The picture below is not enhanced — it really was that blue!
The other most-spectacular place we visited was Milford Sound. To get there we drove up through a glacier-carved valley, then through a tunnel, then down the glacier-carved valley on the other side, down the to Sound. You can see the tiny road ahead of us in this picture. At this point, before we reached the tunnel, I’m thinking “the road goes through that??” :-)
Apparently this is one of the raniest places in New Zealand, but we were fortunate to have clear sunny skies
Here’s Nancy taking in the gorgeous morning blues from our boat tour, when we saw the seals and dolphins.
Farewell, New Zealand! Our two weeks there were packed with adventures, but there’s so much more that we did not get a chance to see, especially on the North Island, where the Maori culture is especially strong. Maybe someday!
Presented for your consideration: pictures of people taking pictures.
Nancy taking pictures of sheep, as Mark and Elisha walk up after taking their own pictures of sheep:
Me trying to figure out what an F-stop is :-):
Mark, Elisha, and me:
Elisha and Mark:
Me realizing that taking the lens cap off might possibly improve my photos:
Nancy, Mark, and Elisha (plus another tourist in green) at Milford Sound:
Mark capturing the amazing reflections in a mountain lake:
You can’t talk about New Zealand, especially the South Island, and not mention sheep. According to NZ government stats, there are about four and a half million people and over 30 million sheep in the country.
One day we were driving up a country road toward the trailhead for our day’s planned hike, and we had a lengthy delay when we came across a huge herd walking along the roadway. They weren’t afraid or even particularly interested in our car as we creeped very slowly through. We decided it to consider it a free tourist attraction, like one of those wildlife parks you can drive through, and just enjoyed our leisurely outdoor petting zoo tour :-).
Another day, we visited a working sheep ranch and got a live demonstration of how sheep are sheared. I wouldn’t say the sheep “enjoyed” it, but seemed resigned and more-or-less about as comfortable as one of our dogs getting a bath!
By fortunate coincidence, we happened to be in Wanaka at the same time as it was hosting the National Sheepdog Trials competition, so we spent one afternoon watching the events live. As sporting event locations go, this was about as impressive as they get, and so were the performances of the “athletes”, the sheepdogs who had such amazing control over their sheep.
These are all working dogs, and they use these skills every day. In the rugged landscapes of New Zealand, there is no mechanical or industrial replacement for their ability to go up on the mountain slopes, collect the flocks, and herd them down for fleecing.
The sheep ranchers themselves are interesting folks too. Standing around listening to their conversations during the competitions, apart from their delightful accents you’d hardly know you weren’t listening to a bunch of “old dirt kickers” (as my dad would say) chatting in the coffee shop :-).
At the end of the last post, I showed a sign that warned “Don’t feed the kea”. “What’s a kea and why shouldn’t I feed it?”, you may well ask. We found out while driving through the mountains where they live — kea are large parrots, very curious about people and very interested in nibbling any loose food, or lacking that, anything small you’re not hanging on to, or even your car’s rubber window seals!
We found this kea sitting on a car parked at a viewpoint on the side of the road. (The car’s owners were on a hike, we found out.) We didn’t feed the kea, but we did take plenty of pictures. Elisha decided to show the better part of valor and take pictures from inside the car, while Mark had a much more up close and personal experience with it :-).
“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille”
We did some hiking along trails up in the mountains. By a lake we saw a bird that looked very much like the diving cormorants we have in Oregon, sunning itself to dry its wings just like our cormorants.
At a bird sanctuary we saw a kaka (a brightly colored relation of the kea), a shy owl hiding in shadows, and the very rare takahe.
Not all the wildlife in New Zealand were birds. At Milford Sound we saw seals posing and napping on the rocks …
… and then we had a big surprise — the tour boat captain told us that dolphins had noticed the boat, and they swam over to meet us and play around surfing in the boat’s bow wave! We could lean over the front railing, and it felt like I could almost touch them, they were so close. It was the high point of the whole trip for me, and that’s saying something.
OK, so these guys aren’t “wildlife” but they are cute :-).