Review Blog

Jan 25 2019

Zenobia by Morten Durr and Lars Horneman

cover image

UQP, 2018. ISBN: 9780702260254.
(Age: All) Recommended for all ages, a useful stimulus to discussion of refugee issues. Could worry younger readers.Themes: Refugees, Children in war, boat people, migration. The opening page of this graphic novel is divided into three uneven frames; in the middle we see the gently curving horizon with the sky above. Below, alone in the ocean is an overloaded boat, every inch occupied by people. The following pages zoom in on the people, so tightly packed that the deck is not visible. We see a little girl, alone, surrounded by adult men. Then the sea gets rough and the people are thrown from the boat, clutching babies and meagre possessions and our little girl is thrown into the sea. The first words come as she sinks, 'it is big and empty here'. 'No-one can find me here.' We find out her name is Amina and we enter her memories of happier times, playing hide and seek with her mother and cooking before they one day went to town and never came back. She had to be brave like Zenobia, a beautiful warrior Queen of Syria who never gave up. An uncle takes her to try and escape the war torn country but there is not enough money for them both so she is alone when the boat sinks.
Beautifully produced and powerfully composed the colours instantly transport us into the blue of the ocean or the brown of the ruined Syrian villages. The impact of the deceptively simple story is graphic and should worry us all. Like the Child Soldiers of Africa, the tragic plight of children in conflict told through books like this will reach into our hearts unmediated by words. We anticipate a last minute rescue but that ending is withheld.
Sue Speck

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