CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 1 . . . .September 2, 2005
Set in Québec in the late 1970s, this graphic novel is a sweet and funny coming of age memoir. Translated from the original French, Paul a un travail d'été, it is the sequel to Michel Rabagliati's first graphic novel, Paul in the Country.
When Paul's grades nosedive and, as a consequence, he is pulled off an art project painting murals based on St. Exupéry's The Little Prince, he drops out of high school in disgust. He takes a job in the "real world" at a print shop but experiences frustration and boredom as "a working stiff." When he forgets to feed his bird and it dies, his self-esteem hits an all time low. After an acquaintance offers Paul a job as counselor at a summer camp for underprivileged children, he quits the print shop and journeys to Val Morin in northern Québec. There, he experiences terror of the outdoors and extreme anxiety at his initial attempts at rock climbing. By summer's end, he has honed his wilderness skills, built a rapport with the campers and fallen in love with Annie, his fellow counselor.
In the epilogue, 20 years later, Paul, his wife and daughter journey to a bourgeois house party, and he realizes that it is the site of the summer camp. He reminisces about his teen years at the camp and completes the circle by pointing out a special star to his young daughter.
Older teens will relate to Paul's anxiety about growing up, and adults will wax nostalgic reading this novel about the joys and sorrows of summer camps and first love. The lyrics of Queen and Supertramp are juxtaposed with references to the reigning Québécois bands of the day, Harmonium and Robert Charlebois. The endnotes provide a glossary of terms for those not familiar with the references to Québécois seventies culture. The text does include some expletives and the drawings, some nudity.
The simple black ink line drawings convey strong emotions and show the influence of Goscinny and St. Exupery on Rabagliati's work. Drawn & Quarterly publishers have ensured high production values for this trade paperback. While librarians have complaints about the poor binding and short shelf life of some Graphic Novels, this title has creamy thick paper with a generous gutter and substantial covers with flaps which will stand up to repeated circulations.
Watch for Michel Rabagliati's latest graphic novel, Paul Moves Out. It follows Paul as he moves out of his parents' house and into an apartment with his girlfriend.
Jane Bridle is a Youth Services Librarian with Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.