Category Archives: Comic

Illegal

I must begin with part of the same quote by Elie Wiesel that Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin use in their graphic novel Illegal; ‘no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. … How can a human being be illegal?’

There was never a more important time to remember this than now. We believed we had moved on, learned something. Even that we were fairer and more aware than we (or ‘people’) were decades ago.

Illegal is a disturbing graphic novel about two brothers from Africa trying to reach Europe, for a better life, and hopefully to find their sister who left first.

Giovanni Rigano, with Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Chris Dickey, Illegal

Anyone who says our immigrants come for the easy life of ‘our’ benefits is ignorant. These people work so hard. So very hard, because they need to earn enough money to pay the people-smugglers who put them in unseaworthy vessels and send them out to sea, to drown, or hopefully reach land on the other side.

And when [if] they arrive, they hope to be allowed to stay, and they will look for work. And they will work.

In a way the story about Ebo and his big brother Kwame is not new at all. I’ve read similar tales over and over in books like this, or in the newspapers. But as a graphic novel the horror becomes more apparent, because you see what they are going through. Where they came from, what the – usually very long – journey was like, and the horror of fearing for your life trying to get to a place where they are not welcome or wanted.

This is a beautiful book, with illustrations by Giovanni Rigano and a story told by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, and lettering by Chris Dickey. Or it would be beautiful if the pictures could tell a sunnier story. Instead we see these two boys and their fellow travellers being cheated, robbed, threatened and even turned back when they’ve tried for so long. And after that come the boats, small inflatable ones or big ships overcrowded to the point of sinking.

Some people make it safely all the way. Many don’t.

It’s so easy to root for Ebo and Kwame, but whether or not they are successful, there are countless others who never will be.

I hope the fact that this is a graphic novel will mean that the book can reach readers who might otherwise not read this kind of thing, or learn the truth about our world. A world where a drowning mother might well thrust her little baby into the arms of a young boy who can barely swim, in the hopes of saving her child.

No benefits in the world can make up for this kind of experience.

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The graphic Northern Lights

I must admit I didn’t expect to be enthralled by Northern Lights, The Graphic Novel, volume two (what happened to volume one?), by Philip Pullman. Also by Stéphane Melchior and Clément Oubrerie, who have adapted and illustrated, respectively. And finally Philip Pullman again, and Annie Eaton, who have translated it back from the French.

I did like it. Happily I know the story well, so starting on volume two was no disaster. The graphics are great, especially scenery such as the north where Lyra meets Iorek, and the hauntingly beautiful but scary setting of Bolvangar. It is quite illuminating being able to see the characters with their daemons. It sort of brings home the closeness in a way the book didn’t, nor the film.

Northern Lights, the graphic novel, volume two

Otherwise it is rather like a film adaptation of a book in that the book is so long and you have to cut and edit to make sense in a smaller format. To some extent it suffers, as all such adaptations do, but it also gains something, and I guess that a graphic novel like this will make His Dark Materials more accessible to less confident readers. As in films, I was surprised by how the characters look, as this is different from how they are in my mind.

But yes, here we meet Lyra and the others as they arrive in Trollesund, and we stay with them until they fly off in Lee Scoresby’s balloon. The harrowing scene showing poor little Tim with his fish replacement for his lost daemon is still as upsetting. Lyra’s spirits are there for all to see, and we are more aware of how angry and scary Iorek was when Lyra first encountered him.

Knowing little about the background to this graphic novel, I assume Stéphane and Clément are fans, like so many others, and that this is why they have begun such a mammoth task. That’s the kind of spirit I approve of!

Monday, Mounties, Metaphrog and the Makar

On my walk from Haymarket to Charlotte Square on Monday I was overtaken by a Mountie. This doesn’t happen often, and as this one was a fake, it might not even count. But still. That’s Edinburgh in August. Thank you kindly.

Just before the entrance to the book festival, I came across our new Makar, Jackie Kay, being photographed by a fan. On my way to a reception in the Party Pavilion, I first stopped by the signing tent to see who I could find. I had missed Philippa Gregory, but caught Dominic Hinde with his last fan. He’s written a book about Sweden, which I’ve not read, but is why I sort of knew he’d be there.

Dominic Hinde

Got to the party just as it was beginning, finding Debi Gliori in the queue by the door and had the nerve to ask her why she’d been invited… (For a good reason, I may add.) She was debating the impossibilty of removing more garments in the somewhat unexpected heat. It’s hard when you are down to your last cover.

Janet Smyth

We were there to eat scones and dainty sandwiches, and to hear about the book festival’s new-ish venture outside Charlotte Square and August, Book-ed. Janet Smyth introduced the speakers, who told us what had been happening, or was about to happen, in their home areas, primarily half a dozen new towns, including Irvine, Glenrothes and Cumbernauld. It seems that having the EIBF behind you means any venture stands a much better chance of success, so I believe we can look forward to many more little festivals here and there.

A wealthy Bookwitch would have offered to sponsor something on the spot, but in this case she merely had another piece of rather nice cake. Met a crime colleague, who was able to tell me what I did last August, which is something I increasingly need help with. To make the most of my invited status, I sat outside on the decking for a while, enjoying the sunshine.

Charlotte Square

It was going to be an afternoon of bookshop signing photos, and I hurried over to catch Nicola Davies and Petr Horáček (for a while I lost Petr’s lovely accents, which was worrying, but they have now been found again), who had so many young fans I didn’t stop to talk.

Nicola Davies

Petr Horacek

The really great thing about Charlotte Square is that someone built it near a good shoeshop, making it possible to pop out for new shoes whenever a gap presents itself. I found such a gap on Monday.

Richard Byrne

Back for Richard Byrne, who seems to be a very nice man, with a whole lot of lovely little fans. And then I crossed the square for Jackie Kay and Zaffar Kunial, checked out the sandwich situation, and went and had a chat with Sarah from Walker Books.

Zaffar Kunial

Jackie Kay

Refreshed from my brief rest, I braved the world of Harry Potter. Jim Kay, who is illustrating the books about the famous wizard, had a sold out event, which then filled the children’s bookshop. Although I couldn’t help noticing that those first in line were really quite old. I chatted to Jim’s chair, Daniel Hahn, who is so relaxed about travelling that he’d only just got off the train.

Jim Kay

After a little sit-down in the reading corner I was ready for Ross MacKenzie and Robin Jarvis. The latter had brought a skull. And with all three signings happening side by side, there was quite a crush. On the left side of the queue I encountered Ann Landmann, who told me she was feeling stupid. When she’d told me why, I also felt stupid, so it must have been an Ann thing. (We should have brought our copies of A Monster Calls. And we didn’t.)

Ross MacKenzie

Skull

My sandwich required eating, and I repaired to the yurt, before going zombie-hunting. Darren Shan was signing his Zom-B Goddess (and I can’t tell you how relieved I am I haven’t really started on his – undoubtedly excellent – books). His hair was extremely neatly combed. I liked the way Darren allowed time for chatting with his fans, initiating a discussion if they seemed shy. I can’t see how he’d have time to do it with all of them, but maybe he feels that those who’d waited to be first in line deserved a bit of extra attention.

Darren Shan

Over in the children’s bookshop I found Metaphrog still signing, and was pleased to see they look nice and normal. The name has always worried me a little…

Metaphrog

And then all I had left to do was get ready for Jo Cotterill and Kathryn Evans, which you’ve already read about. Listening to others in the queue, I got the impression, as with Michael Grant on Saturday, that many people buy tickets on the day for an event that sounds reasonably suitable, but might be with an author they’d not heard of before. I like that. It’s good to know you can discover a new favourite out of the blue.

Pc

The King was here last week. Well, not right here visiting us, but in town. He’d been scheduled several months ago, but had to cancel when the Crown Princess gave birth to her second child. The re-scheduled date had to be re-scheduled when Prince Carl Philip became a father, and then luckily there were no more royal births and the King was finally able to come.

I’m only mentioning him here because I was thinking about author and cartoonist Jan Lööf, who has been accused of not being pc enough. There was talk about his publisher changing things in his books to pc them up a bit, or not to re-publish books, and other silly things.

Ville 1

He is 76 and wrote some of his books so long ago that we’d not started worrying about pc-ness, or at least, the boundaries were in a different place. Years ago I blogged about Jan’s cartoon Ville, when the King and Prime Minister Olof Palme featured, and were the heroes of the moment. Palme got angry but the King thought it was fun. Possibly there were aliens in the story, the portrayal of whom might have been un-pc. Or not.

It’s worrying when every so often people have to pause and look at what went before and then judge it by the standards of today. That’s never going to work. If it doesn’t offend the intended readers – in this case children – it’s fine. If it’s so dated in whatever way that the children avoid the books, then that’s all there is to it. No need to make changes; you just move on.

But at least I learned a new word. Pc in Swedish is pk. Obvious, really.

Can’t see

Got the Resident IT Consultant to change the light bulb in the living room the other day. 18 months in, I’d finally had enough of not seeing. The room felt dim, and I felt depressed. Originally I’d imagined the room would be decorated fairly soon, and we’d change lampshades, not to mention light bulbs, at this point. Best laid plans and all that.

So the room is much brighter. Just not bright enough. I’m a very demanding customer, and I need/want more light sources, not just brighter bulbs. It’s an age thing, and for some reason I’m not getting any younger.

I gave up on another book a few days ago. It has two fonts; one ‘normal’ and one ‘different,’ to keep two aspects of the story apart. I struggled for a while, hoping the different font wouldn’t appear too often. But of course it did, and in the end I decided life is too short to struggle with aspects of print.

‘Older’ paperbacks can be tricky. It must be the same with books, as with portions of food. They are bigger these days. Get an old Penguin, say, and the font size shrinks dramatically. Recently Harriet the Spy was one such challenge. I decided it was short enough that I could manage, but often I do pass over the smaller books on my shelves, if I think the print will turn out to be age-inappropriate.

If only more people would spend time considering fonts and font sizes. Like Barrington Stoke. Although, I suppose publishers don’t make unreadable books on purpose. When they look at the pages, they presumably look fine.

There are some books I don’t even begin reading for this reason. Anything that is too much like a personal diary, or [badly planned] comic. As a child I read comics all the time. Now only the best are clear enough for me. I don’t have time to read everything, so words and pictures that fight for space is one criteria. I only wish that when I receive a book I’d really like to read, that I wouldn’t have to put it aside because of its layout.

There’s a regular half page cartoon in Swedish magazine Vi that I never read. I’ve even given up looking at it as I leaf through the magazine, just to prevent me feeling dizzy. I assume that most people don’t have a problem with it. I feel bad about this, as I’m sure it’s a cartoon I’d enjoy reading.

But when not even a new light bulb helps, I can only move on to something else.

The graphic Peter Pan

I wish there had been graphic novels when I was young. I could be wrong, but I believe we only had comics. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but it would have been fun to have had access to the classics in picture form. There must have been many of us who’d never dream of reading one of those well known classic novels. The kind where you’d know the title, and you might have seen the film, but where you’d stop and think the book will just be too hard to read. Because it’s a ‘proper’ book.

J M Barrie, Peter Pan, adapted by Stref with Fin Cramb

Now Birlinn have transformed Peter Pan into a beautiful picture story, adapted by Stref with Fin Cramb (what fantastic names!).

The illustrations are most attractive, and some of them I could sit and stare at for a long time. And if you read the whole thing, you get all of Peter Pan as well.

J M Barrie, Peter Pan, adapted by Stref with Fin Cramb

Azzi a second time

I can’t believe it’s been almost three years since I reviewed Azzi In Between. I don’t often review books a second time, and I won’t here either, as you can follow the link and see what I said then.

Sarah Garland’s book is out in paperback now, and what with the election looming and everything else that sometimes feels overwhelmingly bad, I need to mention Azzi again.

There are all these powers (-to-be, in some cases) who expect nothing good to come of immigration and refugees. Many who don’t want any strangers coming here at all. Because we are all so nice here and no one else can possibly be worthy of our paradise. Nice, apart from me, because I’m not from here.

The book about Azzi is one that has stayed with me. In my mind, as well as physically sitting on my shelf. We need to see that people need to leave the place they consider to be home. They don’t come here for what they can get, unless that is to survive.

Next week, please vote sensibly. And always, please welcome those who are scared and in danger and have nowhere else to go. If you find your imagination isn’t up to this, I suggest you read After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross. That way you too can be a refugee.