In a mixed-media account that won the BolognaRagazzi Award for Disability, Argentine illustrator Gusti (Half of an Elephant, 2006) relates how he learned to embrace his son’s Down syndrome.
When his second son, Mallko, was born with Down syndrome, Gusti confesses, “I DID NOT ACCEPT HIM.” Fortunately, he gradually realizes that Mallko is “great. The greatest.” And Mallko brims with orneriness—and ordinariness—as he pesters his parents, draws with his dad, and rocks out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In simple text and a collage of sketches, comics, photos, handwritten notes, and even a picture book within the book, Gusti candidly depicts the ups and downs of life with Mallko. Parents and siblings of disabled children will find a spectrum of emotions reflected in Gusti, and Gusti’s wife and older son show how family members can support one another. Despite the simple language, Gusti’s message of acceptance seems particularly, earnestly, addressed to parents. “Kids with Down syndrome are an endangered species,” his penultimate line declares, the words fraught with both his son’s preciousness and Down syndrome’s correlation with abortion. Closing images of two adults with Down syndrome kissing act as a powerful affirmation. Adults should be prepared for some children to ask, “Why?” Occasionally, the original Spanish text appears alongside its English translation, and Mallko’s marker drawings appear throughout. Gusti and his family present as white.
Kids will enjoy meeting Mallko, but Gusti’s funny, affectionate portraits of father and son may resonate most with parents and parents-to-be. (Graphic memoir. 9 & up)