Saturday, September 16, 2023

Cartoon Saturday- Enlighten Me

Lê, Minh  and Chau, Chan Chau (Illustrator). Enlighten Me.
September 19, 2023 by Little, Brown Ink
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus 

Bình's father and mother take him and his brother and sister to a weekend meditation retreat in the country, where the participants are not allowed to speak. While it's hard for Bình to clear his mind, he's just as glad to not have to talk, because there have been trouble incidences with bullying at his school by kids who make fun of him because he is Vietnamese. He'd prefer to play video games, but does find some calm in meditating. When the children at the retreat are told stories about the life of Siddartha and also the Jataka tales about the Buddha's past lives, Bình envisions himself in the tales and reflects upon his experiences at school through these legends. Because the participants are not allowed to talk, there aren't too many family interactions, but there are still some tensions in Bình's family that come out through the drawings, which is pretty impressive. Bình's story about being bullied will resonate with young readers, but what I found most compelling were the stories about the Buddha. Connecting them to a video game type setting adds a lot of interest. Certainly a thought provoking and innovative book. 
Strengths: This is an interesting graphic novel that reminded me a little of Brosgol's Be Prepared. The illustrations are gorgeous, especially the backgrounds, with the fall leaves in the country. 
Weaknesses: As with many graphic novels, I had many questions that would have been better answered with a traditional novel. Why was the family on retreat? What are their practices at home? I was also a little confused about when this takes place, but looking at the graphics in the video game sequences, it might be set in the late 80s or early 90s. 
What I really think: This was an interesting story, but I wanted more information! A good choice for readers who like graphic novels with cultural connections or who want to know more about Buddhism and the life of the Buddha. 

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