The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story

Silvia Vecchini, illus. by Sualzo, trans. by Anna Barton. Amulet, $15.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3368-0
Translated from the Italian, Vecchini’s meditative graphic novel is a response to the 2016 earthquakes in Italy. When a quake disrupts the evening stillness, teenager Matteo watches as a lamp swings, Giulia’s pencil skitters off her drawing, and crockery tumbles. Then the dusk-blue background vanishes to black as the electricity fails. Matteo huddles with his preschool-age stepsister, lighting the space with his phone. The remainder of the book—in earthy clay hues on white—follows the quake’s aftermath. People move into a tent city, their village declared an off-limits “red zone.” Children sketch their memories, and one draws an air raid; he and his dad were already refugees. Matteo’s dad returns the family’s old camper to Matteo’s mother and her new partner so the kids have a temporary home. Matteo, Giulia, and their grieving friend Federico, who cannot find his dog, sneak into their old neighborhood to confront their fears because, otherwise, “your thoughts make shadows that get in the way of reality.” With many traumatized characters and limited explanations, readers may need to backtrack; a second pass reveals subtleties as the survivors adapt. Sualzo’s clear, expressive artwork amplifies the mood of anxiety but does not show graphic injuries, while the panels effectively balance wordless panels and dialogue to convey uncertainty amid aftershocks. Winner of the 2018 Attilio Micheluzzi Award in Italy, this sensitive offering makes expert use of the graphic format to tell an ultimately hopeful story about young survivors. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 09/11/2019
Release date: 09/01/2019
Genre: Children's
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