Zenobia

Morten Dürr, illus. by Lars Horneman. Triangle Square, $19.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-60980-873-0
Global news stories have brought urgent attention to the Syrian children who have drowned as they fled their war-ravaged country; this bleak, skillfully crafted graphic novel, translated from the Danish, personalizes the headlines by imagining one child’s experience. In an opening scene, a boat perilously overfilled with refugees floats on a calm sea. Then a storm arrives, the waves surge, and a girl is flung into open water. As she begins to descend, she revisits scenes from her desperate journey: sparse wartime meals, her parents’ disappearance, and her terrifying, multi-day walk to the sea, where her uncle places her on board the dangerously packed vessel. Along the way, she finds courage and comfort by considering her mother’s stories of Zenobia, an ancient Syrian queen. Dürr uses few words, allowing Horneman’s uncluttered panels to tell most of the heartrending story. Indicating past and present, land and sea with skillful palette shifts, Horneman provides just enough detail to evoke the grim contexts while keeping readers focused on the child. The combined restraint of both the pictures and words powerfully amplifies the astonishing tragedy of the girl’s fate, creating an unforgettable story that will stay with teens and adults alike. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 12/17/2018
Release date: 11/01/2018
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