Colfer, Eoin and Andrew Donkin. Illegal. Giovanni Rigano, Illus. Graphic novel. Sourcebooks, 08/2018. 128pp. $19.99. 978-1-4926-6214-3. PB $14.99. 978-1-4926-6582-3. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 5-9.
Two brothers attempt to make the harrowing journey from North Africa to better opportunities in Europe. Narrated by 12-year-old Ebo, the chapters alternate between a Mediterranean passage in an overcrowded dinghy and flashbacks to their earlier hardships, including an equally perilous Sahara crossing. Ebo and his companions give a sympathetic, human face to the plight of refugees, making the stakes feel real in the dangerous circumstances they encounter. Originally from Ghana, Ebo and Kwame meet dark-skinned refugees and traffickers from other parts of Africa, including a Yoruba-speaking mother that Ebo aids despite a language barrier. The illustrations in this graphic novel are well-paced and complement the flashback-style narration, with a cool palette used for present-day scenes on the boat and warm colors for the earlier urban and desert landscapes. Back matter includes a map of Ebo’s journey, early character design sketches, and an interview from an actual refugee who made a similar journey, adapted into a comic strip by the same creators. A note explains that Ebo’s story is fictional but is based on real contemporary experiences. An important, timely story that is well told. Recommended for school and public libraries. Review based on an ARC.
Caroline Davis, Benicia Public Library