THE ZABIME SISTERS
On the first day of summer vacation, teenaged sisters M’Rose, Elle, and Célina step out into the tropical heat of their island home and continue their headlong tumble toward adulthood. Boys, schoolyard fights, petty thievery, and even illicit alcohol make for a heady mix, as The Zabime Sisters indulge in a little summertime freedom. The dramatic backdrop of a Caribbean island provides a study of contrasts—a world that is both lush and wild, yet strangely small and intimate—which echoes the contrasts of the sisters themselves, who are at once worldly and wonderfully naïve.
Master storyteller Aristophane’s The Zabime Sisters takes a keen look at some of the universal experiences of children on the cusp of growing up, in the fascinating setting of Guadeloupe. Aristophane’s bold, graphic brushwork weaves a wild texture through this gentle, clear-eyed tale.
Aristophane Boulon, who published under his first name, was trained as a fine artist before moving into the world of narrative art, where he made an immediate splash in the French comics world. Not quite ten years after the initial publication of Les Soeurs Zabîme, Aristophane died in 2007. He is deeply missed.
This understated graphic novel manages to entertain and instruct without being overly sentimental. Its three young protagonists, M’Rose, Elle, and Celina, guide readers along a typical summer day in Guadeloupe. The supporting cast includes a variety of childhood heroes and villains, from the tough-talking bully Vivien to the taciturn Michael. The petty arguments, betrayals, schoolyard fights, and alcohol experimentation are punctuated with several explanatory captions that take readers into the characters’ minds and provide useful if occasionally obvious insight into the motives behind what the children do. Readers should have no trouble relating to the experiences of the likable cast. Aristophane’s artwork helps this process thanks to the wonderfully stark and expressive faces on the children he draws. It’s a memorable and honest story that all young readers can enjoy. -- Publisher's Weekly
A single day of a summer vacation in the tropical island Guadeloupe is depicted as three sisters hang out and get into some mischief on their first day of freedom from school. In the course of the day, they tease boys, scare one another, smoke, see a fight, and one has a bit too much to drink. Translated from French, this glimpse of one single day is a very quiet read. The leisurely-paced day echoes the island lifestyle. The day is filled with mini-adventures and explorations around the island. Character exploration is the true story in this coming-of-age graphic novel. Each sister gains some insight into herself and the world around her as the day progresses. The artwork is beautiful in its roughness.
At first glance, Aristophane‘s dry-brush black and white style seems too coarse for the quiet story he is telling. The thick brush strokes sometimes hinder the finer details, such as facial expressions, but the details he is able to hide within the panels are stunning. This slim title will be a harder sell than most graphic novels, but it has a beauty and sophistication that will appeal to higher level readers. An afterword by translator Matt Madden and a reading group guide are included. -- VOYA
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