Rummanah Aasi
Description: Ebo: alone. His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe. Ebo's epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.

Review: Horror stories of immigrants trying to escape in order for a chance at a better life have graced several pages in the newspaper and online. Recent policy changes regarding immigration have reignited the hot topic of immigration in the United States and Europe. While some have welcomed immigrants, others have not.
Illegal is a resonating and timely graphic novel that humanizes an immigrant's plight. The graphic novel is told in two different timelines. In the present Ebo and his brother Kwame along with 12 other people are aboard a leaking dinghy made for six, are desperately trying to reach Italian shores. In the past timeline we are given a road map to all the steps Ebo and Kwame have taken to get to the dinghy: their parents have died, their sole caretaker Uncle Patrick is always drunk and unable to care for them, and their older sister Sisi has made her way to Italy in search of a better life. Both brothers want to reunite with her and get a fresh start. The transition between the two timelines are jarring. There were multiple of times where it took me out of the story. A linear narrative approach would have worked better.
   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 especially with the cruelties of human smugglers who value money more than human life, dehydration and hunger, as well as the impossibilities he survives constitute a haunting testimony to the human spirit. Though the graphic novel is not based on one particular person, but a composite of people who have endured this journey, it is eye opening, engaging, and will hopefully educate people that refugees are not statistics and no human is illegal.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies (Current Events/Debate/Government), English, and Art

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some depiction of strong violence and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab
2 Responses
  1. This whole situation world wide just breaks my heart. Why can't we make laws which allow everyone in every country the ability to live peaceably?

  2. This had such a potential to be great, too bad the 2 time frames made it not as powerful.

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