Bayou: Volume 1 by Jeremy Love

I noticed we haven’t reviewed any graphic novels yet, so I decided it was time for one. I am not such a literature snob as to frown upon graphic novels as I once did (before trying any); I have seen some amazing ones, but I also know they have the tendency to run toward absolute crap. Bayou isn’t perfect, but it is engrossing, beautifully drawn, and thought-provoking. That’s a tall order for something in this genre.

This was purchased as a possible companion piece for remedial ninth graders prior to reading To Kill a Mockingbird. Like TKAM, it explores the deep-rooted issues of racism and blame in the South and what happens when a white person lies to avoid getting into trouble. This work adds a young black girl as the heroine trying to save her father from a fate he doesn’t deserve for a crime he didn’t commit. The parallels are unmistakable, although we ultimately vetoed this as a viable choice. While perhaps not for classroom use, Bayou is probably worth seeking out if you are inclined toward these topics or this genre.

Also, the art is phenomenal. I LOVE a full-color graphic novel. I mean, I hate to be picky about the pictures, but I’m always a little disappointed when I crack the cover of a graphic novel (which is after all, a picture book) and find black-and-white only. After all, if you are creating a book full of drawings, why not have them in color? (Of course, the stark contrast sometimes seems perfectly appropriate. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, Maus and Maus II are certainly exceptions which show how b&w drawings can be extremely well-done in mainstream literature.)

Toward the end, Bayou gets a little supernatural and strays from its previous realism, which I think was one of its main strengths. I’m withholding judgment on that for now, however, as I think something quite creative and redeeming might be forthcoming down that supernatural road in Volume II. Overall, I was absorbed in this little book (which I’ve now reread twice) and will certainly seek out its sequel(s).

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