Booklist Reviews 2018 July #1
*Starred Review* Ten-year-old Ebo has lost his parents, his Uncle Patrick is always drunk, and his older sister Sisi is missing. And then his older brother Kwame vanishes to search for Sisi and find a better life in Europe. With nothing left tying him to their tiny Ghanaian village, Ebo boards a bus to Agadez, Niger, determined he'll somehow reunite with Kwame. Nineteen months later, Ebo and Kwame, with 12 others in a leaking dinghy made for six, are desperately trying to reach Italian shores. The brothers have endured a harrowing journey through the Sahara Desert to Tripoli, Libya, hoping to cross the Mediterranean and land as refugees. The horrors Ebo witnesses and the impossibilities he survives constitute a haunting testimony to the human spirit. Artemis Fowl creator Colfer (who taught elementary school in Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia) leads the team that was also behind the Artemis Fowl graphic adaptation in transforming staggering statistics (UNHCR's 2017 data cites 65.6-million have been forcibly displaced) into a resonating story about a single boy and what remains of his family. Italian artist Rigano's gorgeously saturated panels—rich in detail, affecting in captured expressions, with landscapes made spectacular as a reminder of everyday beauty despite tragedy—prove to be an enhancing visual gift to the already stirring story. A creators' note and quotes from real refugees round out this illuminating, important volume. Grades 6-9. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2019 Spring
Twelve-year-old Ebo and his older brother are among hundreds of migrants on a crowded boat to Europe when it capsizes. Chapters alternate between "now" (at sea) and "then" (Ebo's sojourn from Ghana by truck and on foot). Moments of resilience and generosity stand out, but perhaps most moving are close-up panels of distressed faces and haunting images of death. This poignant graphic novel humanizes an ongoing tragedy. Copyright 2019 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2019 #1
When twelve-year-old Ebo discovers that his older brother Kwame left their village in Ghana to find their sister, who immigrated to Europe, Ebo strikes out on his own and follows Kwame. Reunited in Niger, the brothers cross the Sahara Desert by truck and on foot and arrive in Tripoli, where they board a "rotten, patched-up" inflatable boat that soon rips. A larger, already crowded vessel carrying migrants rescues them. Passengers are "a sea of faces—all of them looking to Europe. All of them have their own reason for making this terrible journey." When the boat capsizes, sending hundreds into the water, they are approached by a helicopter that can only rescue so many. Chapters alternate between "now" and "then"; "now" takes place at sea, and "then" tells of Ebo's sojourn from home to the point where he and Kwame board the boat. Moments of resilience, loyalty, and generosity stand out, but perhaps most moving are the close-up panels of faces in distress, the roiling ocean, bodies flailing in the water, and haunting images of death. Detailed renderings of crowded boats and cramped trucks have an appropriately photojournalistic quality. Visceral and poignant, this graphic novel (like Don Brown's The Unwanted, rev. 9/18; and Morten Dürr's Zenobia, rev. 11/18) humanizes an ongoing tragedy and implicitly asks whether it should ever be illegal to help a child in need. julie hakim Azzam January/February 2019 p 87 Copyright 2018 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
PW Reviews 2018 April #5
This achingly poignant graphic novel by Colfer and Donkin, collaborators on the Artemis Fowl graphic novels, imagines how one Ghanaian orphan ends up adrift in the Mediterranean. Ebo's older sister Sisi is already in Europe, and he knows his brother Kwame is headed there, too, so Ebo sets out to find him. It's clear that he succeeds, because the story opens on a scene of the two brothers drifting without food or water on the ocean. But in flashbacks, they see Ebo searching for Kwame in a teeming refugee hub in Niger. Punchy dialogue and wistful narration note both Ebo's poverty and his gifts: optimism ("I'm stronger than I look," he tells a boss), a talent for singing, and initiative (he parlays a box of wet wipes into cash by selling them one by one). Water is precious, and Ebo and Kwame endure periods of intense thirst. Rigano brings the brothers' struggle close, but his magnificent panels include moments of beauty, too. Clouds tower above the ocean, and starry skies light the desert. Refugees, readers will understand, are not statistics; everyone is an individual. Ages 10–up.