It was almost a year ago that I first reviewed Salt Water Taffy: The Legend of Old Salty and, despite having a copy of the second volume Salt Water Taffy: A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas for several months, I just now got around to reading it. I'll tell you now, THAT is my biggest complaint about the book: that I waited this long to read it.
Much of the first volume is, not surprisingly, about character introductions. With this installment, we hit the ground running and get dropped right into a Putnam family hike. Er... I guess that would make it "hit the ground hiking". In any event, Dad relays the legend of Baranabas, the giant golden eagle that lives atop the mountain and swoops down to steal hats off the heads of unsuspecting victims. Later, when said eagle steals Dad's precious hat off the head of young Jack... well, our story's title becomes plainly evident.
For as much as I enjoyed the first book, I liked this one that much more. The characterization struck me as more natural, and the readers are shown who everyone is more organically. Which makes the book incredibly approachable for new readers. The main characters, brothers Jack and Benny, are also the clear heroes here and conduct their adventure without the aid of Angus as they did before.
The plot also holds together more strongly than the previous episode. There is little here that is superfluous, and most of the seemingly dismissable seen in early portions of the story is utilized later. The only exception I can see to that are two characters who make some side commentary on page three. I think one of them is author Matthew Loux, but I don't know who the other might be. (Letterer Douglas E. Sherwood, maybe? I don't know what he looks like.) But everything else is really tightly plotted, and Loux displays some really excellent storytelling abilities here.
I have to admit that when I first saw ads for his earlier work, Side Scrollers, I was turned off by the excessively sharp knees and I subsequently didn't pay much attention to him as a creator. And though he still draws characters with sharp knees, there's such warmth and energy in his characters that I don't even notice it any more.
A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas is an amazingly charming and well-crafted tale. I'm now eagerly looking forward to Salt Water Taffy: The Truth About Dr. True and will be enjoying Loux's bi-weekly SWT comic strip until then.