I read my first real graphic novel in my twenties – Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – it was amazing. Not only the storytelling and the story to be told, but the fact that this huge and terrible part of history could be told in a simple and easier to understand way.
Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin also does just that. We are all very aware of the horrible refugee crisis in our world but perhaps many of us do not know of the journey that these people need to go through in order to reach a new country.
Told through the eyes of young Ebo, we learn about where he lives in Africa and his desire to leave his home town where there is no work and little family left. Following his older brother he makes a dangerous journey into the town of Agadez where he meets his older brother. It is there that they work hard to leave the city and make the perilious journey through desert and then the sea for a better life.
The reader experiences the highs and the many lows of Ebo’s journry. Giovanni Rigano’s illustrations show the reader the love, hope and desperation of the people. We are also able to see the harshness of the desert and the terror of the sea.
Through Coulfer and Donkin’s storytelling we feel Ebo’s emotions, understand his desires and hope for a better future with him.
We meet other refugees who also desire a better life and we learn why they risk everything in order to reach a country, which they think will help them.
Illegal is a story that needs to be shared. The way refugees are treated by many countries is beyond comprehension and this story just shows how desparate theses people are. No one would ever undertake the journey if they didn’t need to.
At the end of the story the reader can view a map with explanation of where Ebo travels which I found and those children I shared the story with most informative.
There is also another short graphic story at the end of Illegal, that speaks to us about a young refugee woman. This story brings to light the plight of young women who may be travelling with young children or pregnant and their desperation to flee terror and poverty.
Illegal is a story to share and a story to reflect on. It is a story that will hopefully stir emotion and action so that more people do not need to take these journeys.
So what can you do?
- Find out where the refugees in your country are from and plot the journey they have taken to get to your country.
- Find some news articles that tell you a story about someone who has come you’re your country as a refugee. Find out how they came here, who they left behind or lost and what they needed to do.
- Look at how the graphic novel is set out and create your own graphic novel that will teach others about an important story like this one.
- See if there is a way you can help people who are refugees in your country.
– Write a letter to your local member, Premier or Prime Minister.
– Contact Local refugee organisations and see if there is any way you can help.
– Raise awareness in your community by submitting a short graphic novel to the local newspaper or school newsletter.
- Learn more about the UN charter of rights and also the Rights of a child. Which rights did Ebo, his brother and many people not have along the journey? Can you think of anyone you know who is not being given all of their rights?