Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

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Summary:  12-year-old Ebo lives with his alcoholic Uncle Patrick in Ghana; his sister Sisi has left to try to get to Europe.  When his brother Kwame also runs away, Ebo decides to try to find him and start a new life in a more prosperous country.  The brothers eventually reunite and make their way across the Sahara Desert to Tripoli, Libya. From there, they work and save money to take a boat across the Mediterranean Sea.  The story is told in chapters alternating between that boat journey and flashbacks relating the events leading up to it. There is extreme hardship, illness, and death every step of the way with a particularly heartbreaking tragedy at the end.  Ebo is persistent and optimistic, though, and his prospects for success in his new country seem promising. Includes a map; a creators’ note that tells more about refugees; and “Helen’s Story”, the story of a Sudanese woman’s harrowing journey to the United Kingdom. 144 pages; grades 6-8.

Pros:  This graphic novel would make an excellent companion to last year’s Refugee by Alan Gratz.  Although Ebo’s story is fictional, the events and hardships seem very real.  The artwork is beautiful, with stunning ocean and desert scenes providing sharp contrast to the difficult story line.

Cons:  While I think older elementary students would find this book engaging and learn a lot from it, be aware there is a lot of death and grief in the story.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

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