A graphic novel tackles the difficult subject of a young girl witnessing domestic violence.
In stark, direct prose, readers are immediately made aware of Julia’s situation: “All my life my parents fought. I thought fighting was normal.” Julia wants desperately to tell someone (“ ‘My dad hits my mom.’ Wow! What if I said that out loud?”) but is afraid of losing one or both of her parents. Luckily, she and her mom get help. They move first to a shelter and eventually to safe housing to start their new life. Morgan, a counselor at a Canadian service for victims of domestic abuse, dips into many of the emotions that swirl around this topic. Sadness, fear, guilt; in one instance Julia and her mom say good night to each other in their new home, and in a much smaller thought bubble, as if she is ashamed, Julia quietly thinks “Good night, Dad.” Can it be OK to miss someone who has caused so much harm? In the end, Julia is allowed to visit her dad on weekends, but she cannot tell him where she lives. In its loose, graphic-novel presentation, the art, while uneven at times, serves as a strong vehicle for such emotions. Julia’s complete journey is portrayed in a mere 32 pages, which could seem rushed, but to a child who sees him- or herself in any part of this story, it could be a lifeline to hold on to.
A powerful tool for education, comfort and, one hopes, healing. (Graphic novel. 7-9)