Williams’s sweet-tempered pen-and-ink drawings take some of the sting out of the misery of Hugo’s original—but not much. Jean Valjean’s seesaw journey between sin and redemption personifies the misery of Second Empire France. At times, Williams’s familiar comics sequences seem disconcertingly light in contrast to the harsh setting, with toy-size cats and mice pursuing each other around the margins as the human characters suffer within. Yet the wealth of her imagination brings the tale to life for readers who may already have encountered the story in the form of the musical or its soundtrack. She keeps all the characters straight, summarizes the twists and turns of the story clearly, and uses oblong panels like stage sets with lucid narration beneath, while dialogue appears in speech balloons. The famed sequence in the sewers is rendered in typical style as mice journey through the sludge with Valjean and a cat sits watching on a bridge as Valjean’s nemesis Javert ends his life in the Seine below. It’s an unimpeachable resource, if not always an easy one to enjoy. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)
Victor Hugo’s epic masterpiece is retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams in her signature comic-book style.
Travel back to nineteenth-century France with ex-convict Jean Valjean as he tries to put his criminal past behind him and his fate intertwines with the ruthless Inspector Javert, determined to put Valjean back behind bars; the poor factory worker Fantine, whose struggle to provide for her child leads to her death; her orphaned daughter, Cosette, whom Valjean saves from poverty and neglect; and Cosette’s besotted suitor, Marius. As a revolution sweeps through Paris, can Valjean elude Javert and secure a happy life for Cosette before all is lost? Follow their story in Marcia Williams’s entertaining and easily digestible retelling for young readers.
Lively, fluidly drawn watercolors.
The wealth of [Williams's] imagination brings the tale to life for readers who may already have encountered the story in the form of the musical or its soundtrack.
Children who are daunted by the length of Hugo’s masterpiece may find this brief introduction to the story more palatable.
—School Library Journal
A good introduction to the classic tale for middle-grade readers.
A highly entertaining, easily accessible adaptation to the epic masterpiece by Victor Hugo, this selection excels in every regard.
—from Kendal Rautzhan
Gr 5–8—Williams introduces the characters and plot of Hugo's classic novel in 15 short chapters presented in comic strip format with brief narrative text placed beneath each cartoon illustration. Characters' own comments appear in speech balloons within the cartoon frames. This is the story of Jean Valjean, who leaves prison a bitter man after having served 19 years of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread; Valjean's honorable treatment by the Bishop of Digne after he steals the man's silverware; his remorse after taking a young boy's only coin; and his decision to spend his life helping others. Readers familiar with the classic story will recognize his later appearance in the city of Montreuil as a kind and successful businessman who hires honest, hardworking people. Valjean makes a promise to the dying Fantine to care for her young daughter, Cosette, endearing him to the people who appoint him their mayor. Only the single-minded Inspector Javert is convinced that Valjean continues to break the law. Williams's talent for telling a story in cartoon format is evidenced by the variety in her page layouts, which range in size from tiny squares to quarter-, third-, and full-page cartoons filled with movement, emotion, and fine detail. Small gray, brown, and black birds; dogs with pointy muzzles; fluffy orange, gray and black cats; roosters; and an abundance of rats appear in and around many cartoon cells. Good people are drawn with rounded, often cute, faces; evil people, like the Thénardiers, with long, pointy noses and shifty eyes. VERDICT Children who are daunted by the length of Hugo's masterpiece may find this brief introduction to the story more palatable.—Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH
In typically buoyant cartoons, Williams presents a précis of Hugo's epic. It's hard to imagine an illustrator less suited to this exhausting story and vice versa. In sequential panels large and small, Valjean and the other characters appear in picturesquely patched and rumpled costume. The background slums, sewers and, in later scenes, barricades are atmospherically stained and littered with detritus, but even during the most desperate and tragic events there are smiles and stage antics on view. Small birds, busy rats and cats, sprigs of garland and like decorative motifs add entertaining distractions within the pictures and along the borders of every page. Furthermore, even if portions of the dialogue enclosed in the speech balloons are credibly translated from the original, some of them have a jarringly jocular ring: "Since I am not arrested and I have things to do, I'm going"; "The old geezer and his daughter are on their way." In contrast to the lively, fluidly drawn watercolors, the lines or blocks of narrative running beneath every picture offer a dry, past-tense plot summary that may possibly be helpful to assignment-driven slackers but go on long enough to try the interest of younger readers. An epic muddle, all in all. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)
|Product dimensions:||8.40(w) x 10.70(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|