Saturday, September 07, 2013

Reader's Diary #1061- Sharon E. Mckay (Writer) and Daniel Lafrance (illustrator): War Brothers

I learned a valuable lesson with this read: Kobo eReaders suck for graphic novels.

First off, the screen is too small. To read each page I had to zoom in 4 times. Then, because an info bar at the top of the screen cutting off any text at the top of the page, I had to rotate the page to read it. And when I tried to turn to the next page, the zoom reset and I had to zoom in again. Zooming in, by the way, meant that the entire page wasn't visible at once. Furthermore, it was black and white when the original illustrations were in colour.

None of this is Sharon E. McKay's or Daniel Lafrance fault, but it took me much longer to get into the story and let go of my frustration.

War Brothers is the fictional story of Jacob, a 14 year old Uganda boy who is kidnapped into the very non-fictional Lord's Resistance Army, a rebellious terrorist group led by warlord Joseph Kony. Kony first came to my, and much of the world's, attention through Joseph Russell's Youtube video Kony 2012.

Jacob's story is heart-wrenching, dealing with the inner turmoil the child soldier must endure. Missing their homes and family, being forced to commit violent crimes including murder, and the after effects. Even for those who leave, the ramifications on their psyches are lifelong. Jacob was one of the fortunate ones who was able to hold on to his true self; warm to others, brave, and reflective. Despite this, he will carry the physical and emotional scars always.

Last year I read McKay's Charlie Wilcox and I could see many similarities between the two main characters. They were both brave and profoundly affected by war. However, there was much more build up in Charlie Wilcox and the character was more fleshed out. I question if the original novel version of War Brothers wouldn't have developed Jacob more.

As for the illustrations, they're of a realistic somewhat old fashioned style. (They reminded me of artwork from old Sunday School textbooks.) However, when I see the beautiful colouring online, I can see that they are far better than I'd first suspected. The shading and lighting really bring out the intense and sombre moods.

It's an important read to introduce teens to current world events, to make privileged teens appreciate their blessings, and above all, to hopefully encourage change. It's not overly graphic, but it still packs an emotional punch and gets the point across.


Barbara Bruederlin said...

You are doing nothing to persuade me to get an e-reader. But of course, that is just the side point of your review. The book itself sounds quite moving.

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Oh, I still think eReaders have their place. Just not for graphic novels.

Jules said...

E-Readers are great, I've never tried reading an graphic novel on my Kobo. The Kobo APP for (Ipad/Andriod etc) does a good job at reading graphic novels and comics and all those types of books, as you don't have screen issues. (I've only read picture books, but I think they'd be similar in reading experiences due to text size issues)

The book it self sounds allright, but graphic novels have never been my cup of tea.