Harvey

02Sep11

A brief but potent graphic novel, Harvey feels like an authentic Canadian story that’s also universal enough for anyone to appreciate. Written by Hervé Bouchard and illustrated by Janice Nadeau, it’s recommended for young adults (ten or over) or anyone interested in a well-crafted and poetic graphic novel.

The story is straightforward: Harvey and his brother return home from playing to find their father has passed away of heart failure. The failure of the boys to completely understand – and the failure of adults to completely explain, over and over – rings true, even as the illustrations by Nadeau capture a world that’s slightly surreal to a particular uncertain child: walls sometimes go on forever, and patterns sometimes leap off dresses. Unfortunately, the only review currently on Amazon suggests American children may not be able to relate, but that’s simply rubbish. There’s nothing exclusively Canadian about the death of a parent, and an American child need only be told to anticipate a few French-Canadian names to completely understand the book. The feel of small-town Quebec is certainly strong here, but isn’t critical to a child interested in appreciating the book.

In another touch that feels authentic, Harvey escapes into the world of American hero Scott Carey, central character in The Incredible Shrinking Man, a film that would’ve been a popular success at the time (now a somewhat obscure, but still a well made and entertaining film). Harvey won Governer General’s Literary Awards for both text and illustration.

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