Review: Illegal: A Graphic Novel Telling One Boy’s Epic Journey to Europe

As a child of the 1980s, I grew up in a time where cartoon movies were a joy for not only the kids but the parents. This tradition continues on to today as many of these films usually leave a few jokes only parents will understand. Then there are those animated pictures that they are made for children. One of the most memorable movies, that I can watch today, and I would still make me feel the same way, is Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, a sobering cinematic classic about humanity, the dangers of pollution, and our connection to nature.

Then there’s An American Tail, a movie that felt it was from Disney, but it actually from Universal. It told a story about a  family of mice who came to the United States from Russia but are separated from one of their children. Though it was years ago, this very story is being forced upon the many immigrants and refugees fleeing to America for a better life today. We see it play out on the news, children being torn from their parents maybe to never be reunited. This is not the only atrocity being forced upon them as they flee here. America was a beacon of hope. Now it has shown an uglier side as the xenophobia and racism that has seeped into the public consciousness has eroded who we are to the world. In this timely graphic novel from the team behind Artemis Fowl, is Illegal, which tells the story of two brothers who long for life and each other.

Within the first page, we find a quote from Elie Wiesel, where he addresses how the world uses the namesake of the book when it comes to refugees. We meet Ebo, a 12 year old in Ghana who just found out his brother has left his village. Ebo longs for his brother, and sees it as an opportunity as he plots to find him. He starts by riding on a bus, his very first time on one and meets a variety of characters. He sees first hand how it is to live without a home. Eventually reuniting, the journey turns to finding their sister Sisi. The graphic novel explores the dangers these individuals face to find freedom, reunite with family, and provide basics of life like food, water, shelter, and medicine. And, the reality of facing death to achieve those simple things.

The graphic novel is a moving story of love and family and the journey some refugees must undergo. The story by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin is heartfelt, honest and relevant. The art by Giovanni Rigano is gorgeous and endearing. Altogether, a story about a family like any other and whose love knows no bounds.

Story: Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin Art: Giovanni Rigano
Story: 10 Art: 9.6 Overall: 9.9 Recommendation: Buy