BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano [in Booklist]

Ten-year-old Ebo has lost his parents, his Uncle Patrick is always drunk, and his older sister Sisi is missing. And then his older brother Kwame vanishes to search for Sisi and find a better life in Europe. With nothing left tying him to their tiny Ghanaian village, Ebo boards a bus to Agadez, Niger, determined he’ll somehow reunite with Kwame.

Nineteen months later, Ebo and Kwame, with 12 others in a leaking dinghy made for six, are desperately trying to reach Italian shores. The brothers have endured a harrowing journey through the Sahara Desert to Tripoli, Libya, hoping to cross the Mediterranean and land as refugees. The horrors Ebo witnesses and the impossibilities he survives constitute a haunting testimony to the human spirit.

Artemis Fowl creator Eoin Colfer (who taught elementary school in Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia) leads the team that was also behind the Artemis Fowl graphic adaptation in transforming staggering statistics (UNHCR’s 2017 data cites 65.6-million have been forcibly displaced) into a resonating story about a single boy and what remains of his family. Italian artist Giovanni Rigano’s gorgeously saturated panels – rich in detail, affecting in captured expressions, with landscapes made spectacular as a reminder of everyday beauty despite tragedy – prove to be an enhancing visual gift to the already stirring story. A creators’ note and quotes from real refugees round out this illuminating, important volume.

Review: “Graphic Novels,” Booklist, July 1, 2018

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2018


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