In Matthew Loux’s latest installment of Salt Water Taffy, the boys are dealing with a new kind of trouble. A ghost ship has been seen sailing around Chowder Bay, as well as the legendary giant whale Caldera. Jack and Benny can’t be expected to finish reading The Hidden History of Chowder Bay with a mystery like that going on. They immediately have to get in on the action. Caldera’s Revenge Pt. 1 is an excellent maritime mystery featuring all of your favorite characters from Salt Water Taffy (except for Barnabas, who had to attend a Hat Convention).

Loux manages to walk an excellent line with his humor. These books are silly, smart, and just the right amount of snarky. Characters make hilarious jokes constantly, making every page fun to read. The story starts out with a ship attacked at sea by some sort of giant creature. The captain of that ship survives and joins his buddies at the local pub, as they recount ridiculous stories of the giant (probably imaginary) encounters with some interesting creatures – giant lobsters, Sasquatch, and so on. The stories get more hilarious and ridiculous as the pages go on.

Loux’s artwork pays close attention to detail. Some of the water illustrations in this book are stunning, featuring intricate scenes of dappling waves and three-masted wooden ships. Other illustrations are just made with some thick swirling black lines and a word or two. The mix of art styles blends perfectly to create a whimsical atmosphere. There are a few scary scenes in the book, but Loux helps the reader to not get too worried by adding a sillier drawing to contrast the more intricate, dark scenes.

My only issue with this graphic novel is that it is very short. It sets up the story in a roundabout way and, just as things get going, it cuts off. It felt like a lot of work for little pay-off. The story has a lot of hilarious jokes and side stories to get you to the main plot, but three-fourths of the book was about details, rather than getting to the action. It left me feeling a little cheated. I enjoyed the journey, but barely got to see the destination.

This book is just downright funny. I giggled the whole way through. Loux (who also wrote and illustrated Sidescrollers – one of my all-time favorite teen graphic novels) does a great job of writing humor that will appeal to all ages. Parents and kids both will get something out of reading this book and the others in the series. The ending was too abrupt, but I’m hoping Caldera’s Revenge Pt. 2 will more than make up for that.

Salt Water Taffy, book 4: Caldera’s Revenge Pt. 1
by Matthew Loux
ISBN: 9781934964620
Oni Press, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages

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