(The full title, for the record, is Salt Water Taffy: the Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny, v. 1: The Legend of Old Salty.)
Ok, get a load of this plot summary: Jack, Benny, and their parents go to a small coastal Maine town to spend the summer. Upon arrival, they meet a crusty old seaman named Angus, who tells them a tall tale about Old Salty, the giant lobster who makes all the smaller lobsters do her bidding — which, in this case, involves stealing every piece of taffy from Dr. True’s candy store! Can the boys and Angus thwart Old Salty and track down the taffy?
This took a little while to get going for me. There’s a lot of character exposition: Benny is the younger brother who’s excited about everything new. Jack is the older brother who just wants to spend the summer playing his GameBoy and is devastated to learn that their cabin lacks a television. Angus is a ridiculous caricature of a Mainer who says things like, “Why, your father John is an old friend o’ mine. What be your names?” (By the end of the book, I was pretty sure he was putting it on.)
But halfway through, the mystery starts. That mystery, in case you forgot, involves adorable pictures of little lobsters scuttling across the beach with taffy in their claws. Also awesome scenes like this:
Jack: That was weird. What do lobsters want with taffy anyway?
Angus: I don’t know, but I’d wager my hat that Old Salty’s behind this! Old Salty is queen of the lobsters in these parts. They blindly do her bidding…
Jack: Well, we’ve gotta find Old Salty, then. If we find the monster, we’ll find Mr. True’s taffy!
Angus: So you’re saying you believe in Old Salty now?
Jack: Well… something had to take that taffy. Why not a sea monster?
Angus: That’s what I like to hear, lad! Now let us think of a plan!
(The best scene involves lots of little lobsters talking to each other, but I won’t spoil it for you.)
The sibling relationship is hilariously spot-on, and is what kept me going through the slow first half. The layout has perfect comic timing, if such a thing can be said. The plot is, as you might have gathered, totally ridiculous and surreal, but I laughed my butt off the whole way through. If you know a 7-12 year-old boy, in particular, who needs a comic, give this one a try. It even has sequels!