Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin

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Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin

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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A beautiful and emotive graphic novel following a young boy as he makes his way to Europe and a reunion with his sister.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: October 2017
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1444934007

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Ebo is twelve years old and all alone. His sister left for Europe months ago and now he doesn't know where his brother is either but knows that he has probably done the same thing. So Ebo has to attempt the same dangerous journey himself. He must cross the Sahara Desert, get himself to Tripoli, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and then try to cross the Mediterranean Sea. By himself. At twelve. And, even if he makes it, how will he find his sister?

Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin have come together here to collaborate on their response to the refugee crisis. More than a million people crossed the Med to enter Europe in 2015 alone. The UN has said that this mass migration - flight from conflict and climate - is a colossal humanitarian catastrophe and they are right. But it's easy to get lost in the sheer size of what is happening and forget that each one of those million people are individual human beings. Colfer and Donkin are trying to redress that in the minds of children with their story of Ebo and his sister, aided masterfully by comics artist Giovanni Rigano.

Ebo's journey is a perilous one and Illegal doesn't pull any punches. At times, it's quite grim reading. But Ebo himself is a wonderful character - decent, determined and courageous. It's deeply affecting to see this journey through the eyes of a young boy, who overcomes hurdle after hurdle and danger after danger, and never gives up. The graphic novel format is perfect for this story - vivid, immediate, accessible, and very, very effective. At the end, there is a map, an interview with a woman who undertook the same journey and some words from the authors, all fleshing out the fictional story children have just read with the facts that inspired it. I think Illegal is a wonderful and creative contribution to an earthquake of a crisis affecting millions of innocent people.

I'd also like to add a note about the production quality. Illegal is absolutely beautifully produced, from the hardcover format and the blue and silver cover, to the thick, lush paper used. It smells wonderful - like a proper book, a treasured book, a book you'll go back to, a book that will always sit on your shelf and remind you of what's inside even from just the tiniest glimpse of its spine as you walk past. You can feel the love, passion and, yes, anger that has gone into it. Hodder has my admiration for this level of commitment to the story.

The refugee crisis has ignited a great deal of often polarised emotions and discussions. It's generated endless column inches and news reports. But at its heart are real stories of real people. Real. People. People who are not cockroaches, who do not swarm. People with hopes and dreams and lives that they deserve to live in safety and with dignity. As the authors say, Illegal is a work of fiction, but every separate element of it is true. There are thousands and thousands of Ebos. And we should understand their stories.

Highly, highly recommended.

If you want to talk about the refugee crisis with the littlest of little ones, My Name is not Refugee by Kate Milner is a good place to start.

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Buy Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin at


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