The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear
When I turned 13 (when I had more time to read 2 inch-thick books like this monster!) my uncle bought this book for me. Upon seeing the front of the book, with the above title and a picture of a massive blue bear in a tiny boat with tiny pirates, I questioned whether my uncle thought I was celebrating my 5th birthday, rather than my 13th. My dad, strangely, read a bit and decided it was written more for adults and so, with a confused look, I accepted this. Now aged 17, I picked it up and began to read it, and it is clear why now. Wit and satire aren’t so exciting to a 13 year old.
This book, one would presume, is meant to be a joke in itself. The story is about a blue bear that was found lost at sea by tiny pirates, simply called…’Minipirates’ (Moers doesn’t appear to have been the most creative in the first chapter). He is found…in a nut-shell! Yes, really, hence you can already see
Moers’ sense of humour. He eventually grows too big for the boat
boat, and has to be cast on an island.
The interesting feature that separates this book from most books of this sort, which continues throughout the book, is the random bold paragraphs of encyclopaedia definitions. Now before you think “Oh yes, I better buy this book because of its encyclopaedia definitions!”, the point is it manages to explain everything clearly to you as the reader, so you don’t feel lost in the large world Moers sets before you, but is in Bluebear’s head and so aids him throughout the book (often just in the nick of time), thanks to one of his later lives.
The only situation I felt I could put the book down without upsetting my conscience was the point in the occasional life where exposition was needed, and Moers doesn’t use the encyclopaedia definitions to help. You can easily go 5 or 6 pages just naming these creatures, half of which won’t be necessary and, I’m afraid to say, will probably be
forgotten pretty easily! Charge through this barrier, and you’ll quickly be back into the swing of the book.
This first life of Bluebear’s makes you chuckle at the absurdity, as well as comments like ‘found in a nut-shell’, however there is a sense of sadness at the end of this comfy life for him, as they seem to get on as a family. And this is the golden point of why this book works. Each life brings witty humour and an underlying commentary on the absurdity of fantasy books exactly like this one. Nevertheless, at the end of each life, he moves on for one reason or another, half the time leaving behind close friends that sometimes even become like family to him, and you as the reader feel you want to stay with them because a great bond was formed, especially with the last-minute bird Deus Ex