Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Teen Tuesday and review: Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin. Illustrated by Giovanni Rigano. Lettering byChris Dickey. 138 p. Sourcebooks/ Jabberwock, August, 2018. 9781492662143. (Review from purchased finished copy.)

Readers meet twelve-year-old Ebo shivering and wet, huddled in an overcrowded raft in the middle of the night in the middle of the ocean. The group are hoping they are on course to land in Italy and argue whether the moon should be to their left or their right. They are running out of fuel and hope as they realize they will soon be adrift when that happens. Chapter two flashes back nineteen months to Ebo in his village as he realizes that his brother has left to immigrate to Europe. His sister left months earlier. Now Ebo will be left alone with an alcoholic uncle. 

The action switches from "now" to "then" in alternating chapters, with the palette for "now" done in blue hues and "then" done in browns and greens. Ebo is determined and resilient. He finds a way to travel to the city without stealing from his uncle. Against all odds, he reunites with his brother and the two work hard and live in a storm drain to save money to buy passage to Europe. This involves a trek across the desert without enough water as well as being cheated by their smugglers.

The harsh realities of the boys' life is offset by the love and devotion they have for each other and Ebo's eternal optimism. But this is a heartbreaking and intense read. It is also important for young people, especially those in first-world countries, to read and understand that the refugee crisis is real and that refugees are people, not statistics or faceless monsters. 

The art is often quite moving and many panels arrest the eye and cause the reader to linger or return. 

There are quite a number of fans of Alan Gratz's Refugee at my school. I am sure they will be interested in reading Illegal as soon as school starts again. Illegal is a must-read, must-purchase, must-share book.

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