Sunday, August 28, 2016
Reader's Diary #1365- Patti LaBoucane-Benson (writer), Kelly Mellings (artist): The Outside Circle
While at times The Outside Circle could be didactic, it was largely offset with honesty and artistic flourishes. Pete's life is not pretty and LaBoucane-Benson doesn't shy away from harsh realities. Swearing is tampered down somewhat with comic cursings (i.e., F#@$), making it more likely to be used in schools, I suppose, but there's also a lot of violence depicted. Personally, I think it was important to show this.
The artistic approaches came courtesy of both LaBoucane-Benson and artist Kelly Mellings. One favourite and powerful scene comes early in the book when Pete's mother is signing a "Permanent Guardianship Order" for her younger son, Pete's brother Joey, to be taken into the custody of Social Services. Instead of the wording one might expect on such a document, it instead details historical legacies which have contributed to this scene: residential schools and the '60s Scoop.
Also, Mellings makes much use of masks as a symbol, a theme that carries throughout the book, until finally explained near the end. It's a powerful and compelling image.
Ultimately, The Outside Circle is a story of hope, offering an insight to a program that may help heal the lives of many in need.