cover image Jim’s Lion

Jim’s Lion

Russell Hoban, illus. by Alexis Deacon. Candlewick, $15.99 (84p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6517-3

The late Hoban’s story about a boy battling a mortal illness was first published in 2001. Turning it into a graphic novel is a tricky prospect, but Deacon (who illustrated Hoban’s Soonchild) is fully up to the task. Jim lies in a hospital bed, gravely ill. He knows he may die. The ward nurse, Nurse Bami, an African woman “with tribal scars on her cheeks,” tells Jim that he must search for his finder, the animal in his head “who can bring you back from wherever the doctors send you.” Jim’s finder, it emerges, is a lion, and, in watercolors simultaneously delicate and taut with emotion, Deacon imagines Jim and his lion fighting his sickness. Small panels capture with marvelous powers of invention the hallucinatory nature of sickness. Dreamlike worlds of death threaten to engulf Jim, are beaten back, then gather strength and attack again. Deacon’s images enhance but do not overwhelm Hoban’s story, which holds its own potent magic. Nurse Bami tells Jim how he’ll know he’s found his finder: “The real thing is always more than you’re ready for,” she says. This is the real thing. Ages 6–9. (Nov.)