In his first week in Cairo, 12-year-old Ronald “Rocket” Robinson finds careering adventure.
It is 1933. Rocket’s father is an American diplomat. Rocket is not happy about leaving Madrid for Cairo, which the narrator describes as “a teeming hive of excitement, intrigue, and danger.” On the train, Rocket, accompanied by his pet monkey, Screech, decides to look for suspicious people. They notice a man with an eye patch, who was introduced in the prologue as a murderer. As the man storms off, he drops a paper covered in what appear to be hieroglyphics. Rocket picks it up and begins a quest to discover its significance. Rocket’s bag is stolen in the market, but when he catches the thief, she apologizes, explaining that she hasn’t eaten in two days. Left by her mother with “a small band of gypsies,” Nuri lives in the Cairo underground. She becomes the only person Rocket can rely on as he goes from escapade to escapade. O’Neill’s clean-lined panels are superficially attractive, but both they and the text are littered with stereotypes. While brown-skinned Nuri has character, and preserving her community’s way of life in the underground is a significant plot point, her depiction does little to dispel the assumptions about Romani that abound in children’s books. The Egyptian villains, one a fumbling idiot and the other a massive brute, are constant evidence of Cairo’s dangers, while positive depictions of Egyptians play minor roles. Rocket and his dad, unsurprisingly, are white.
A wild adventure tainted by Orientalism. (Graphic adventure. 8-12)