I should perhaps have mentioned it yesterday, but the Cybils nominations are open. That means that if you are a fan of a children’s or teen book (or book app) that’s come out since last October 15, you can go nominate it now. Or at least check to see if it’s already been nominated. Go take a look!
Craig Thompson (Blankets) coming out with another epic graphic novel was big news, and I waited until the demand at the library died down a little before checking it out.
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Habibi tells the story of two lost souls in an Arab world. Dodola was sold to be married as a child by her poverty-stricken father, but is put on the slave market when her husband is murdered. She escapes, taking with her a young African slave baby. She names him Cham and hopes that together, they can make a better life. They start living in a ship abandoned in the desert, Dodola sneaking off to passing caravans to earn food, while Cham is in charge of finding water. Change is always around the corner, and even this early period is interrupted with Cham’s coming puberty and awareness of Dodola, and his horror at finding that she sells herself for their food. Then Dodola is kidnapped and taken to the sultan’s harem while Cham must make his own way. Always, in situations worse and better, Dodola and Cham are trying to find a way back to each other. Although the story at first seems to be set in a distant century, later it seems that it’s just a pocket of the modern world resistant to change. Dodola’s husband had been a scribe, and taught her reading and some of the stories he copied. Pieces of mostly Islamic mythology and folk tale are woven through the book, some told by Dodola to Cham, either in person or in his memory, and some just between sections. These stories, the central symbol of a blessing matrix, and the flowing shapes of Arabic letters play central roles in the book. There’s a lot of violence here, especially sexual violence, and the hopelessness of poverty and harsh reality. This is balanced by the beauty of the flowing lines of Thompson’s drawings, the strength of found family, and the power of love (cue the 80s music) between Cham and Dodola. Obviously for adults or very mature teens; read this when you’re ready to be put through the wringer and come out feeling like a better person.