Review Blog

Nov 26 2012

The Young Inferno by John Agard and Satoshi Kitamura

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Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2012; 80 pages; p/b. ISBN 978 1 84780 109 8.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. The Young Inferno is a collaborative work from award-winning duo, poet John Agard and artist Satoshi Kitamura. Their graphic poem is an outstanding contemporary adaptation of Dante's epic, Inferno. Together with Agard's lively verse, and Kitamura's gritty images, it thrusts Dante's fourteenth century epic forward into the edgy world of the twenty-first century teenager. Old and young alike however, will appreciate the genius of Agard's lyrics.
Through the hoodie hero's eyes, and with Aesop as his guide, the slightly offbeat allegorical content of The Young Inferno makes this a clever introduction to Dante's work.
Agard and Kitamura clearly understand the modern young adult culture, hitting close to its beating heart with a hoodie protagonist who clutches a mobile phone, where hell is likened to a scary movie, and a chilly finger runs down his spine when he meets with Frankenstein.
The poem follows our hoodie who is lost in a wild and sombre wood, unable to find his way forward. Soon, Aesop of fables fame, appears to him above the treetops, and becomes his guide. As they journey together through the 'rooms' of Purgatory and Hell, 'Hoodie' meets hypocrites, torturers, money lovers, powerbrokers, and tyrants, and is uncomfortably aware of the presence of dark and evil. Out of this mix emanating from Shakespeare to the Bible, and much in between, will he find his way back to the world above? Will he find love with his ideal woman, Beatrice?
John Agard's work is a light-hearted, yet thoughtful parody of Dante's epic; Kitamura's artwork is witty, edgy and contemporary. Their collaborative work is highly recommended for inclusion in a school library collection, and would be a useful addition to the English Literature Curriculum for secondary students.
Colleen Tuovinen

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