A Novel in Pictures
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 10 - 14
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A sentimental mid-20th-century novel about child labor is given striking, graphic life by a modern illustrator. Set in the 19th century, the tale has all the characteristics of an industrial novel: sold to work as a chimney sweep in Milan, Giorgio endures frighteningly dangerous work, a master who is a drunken weakling, and a mistress who is a harridan. His twin consolations are a friendship he strikes up with his master’s invalid daughter and the brotherhood of his fellow chimney sweeps, with whom he escapes to Switzerland. The original story runs to some 500 pages, but illustrator Binder has drastically cut this, relying instead on dramatic black-and-white engravings to move the narrative along. Not so much a classic graphic novel, this offering instead relies on traditional text blocks accompanied by and interspersed with comic book–style panels. Their Gothic darkness complements the melodramatic text, depicting both horror and wonder with equally freighted emotion. In many cases, narrative gaps depend on intervening illustrations to advance the storyline, a device that, despite its innovation, is not always successful. Still: a haunting, praiseworthy effort that deserves recognition. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2004
ISBN: 1-932425-04-7
Page count: 144pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2004