Thursday, June 27, 2013

Abelard by Regis Hautiere and Renaud Dillies

Abelard looks like a graphic novel for kids because of the big-eyed anthropomorphic characters. It isn't. Regis Hautiere (scenario) and Renaud Dillies (art) have created a whimsical tale for adults about friendship and the value in living a life filled with gratitude.

Abelard is a long-legged boy-chick who lives in a marsh where there are few women, in a fictional early twentieth-century Eastern Europe. A brief encounter with a bird-girl leaves him besotted and determined to win her affection. Abelard is given dubious advice: "To seduce a gal like Eppily, you got to offer her the moon. Or, at the very least, a bouquet of stars."
"Nobody's innocent!" says Gaston.

Being a total innocent, Abelard decides to travel to America, where he's heard that flying machines have been invented. He hopes to get to the moon in one. I almost gave up on the book at this point, because it seemed rather too sentimental for my taste. Luckily, I didn't, because things picked up after about 30 pages. Abelard encounters many obstacles on his journey, including being severely assaulted for being perceived as a "faggot" and a "poet." A grumpy man-bear named Gaston becomes Abelard's unlikely friend.

While travelling with Gypsies, Abelard consults Madame Zaza.
Dillies' dark contour lines and brushy stroke style can be seen here.
It was fun to find jokes slipped into the illustrations, like the Gypsy clairvoyant who advertises extra lucidity. There's a dead leaf with a note: "God rest its soul." There are two road signs pointing in opposite directions: "Towards America" and "Towards America Too (But It's Farther)."

This charming fable, translated from French by Joe Johnson, is suitable for Grade 9 to adult.

Readalikes: Good-bye, Chunky Rice (Craig Thompson); Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (Eric Shanower and Skottie Young); Robot Dreams (Sara Varon); Bone (Jeff Smith); The Little Prince Graphic Novel (Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Johann Sfar); and Set to Sea (Drew Weing).

No comments: