- Hardcover: 264 pages
- Publisher: NBM Publishing (December 1, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1681121476
- ISBN-13: 978-1681121475
- Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.8 x 12 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Portugal Hardcover – December 1, 2017
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From School Library Journal
French cartoonist Simon is depressed. He's muddling his way through writer's block by teaching art to children. Faced with the prospect of buying a house with his girlfriend, he can't commit, and they break up. When wine and family secrets flow at a cousin's wedding, Simon's relatives relate tales of his grandfather Abel's arrival in France from Portugal. He came with his brother, but only Abel stayed. Why did Simon's great-uncle return? Why did Abel remain? To answer these questions, Simon travels to Portugal to connect with distant relatives. As he pieces together the story of his family, he reignites his artistic passion and starts to create, ostensibly, this very book. Pedrosa's dynamic illustrations deftly convey Simon's emotional state. A drab stillness underscores his stagnant depression. When he arrives in Portugal, the artwork becomes effervescent, swinging and glowing with the music of the city. The drawings are architectural and sketchy, like a glimpse into a cartoonist's sketchbook. In dynamic, busy city scenes, characters and backgrounds overlap. Readers won't be surprised to discover that, as the back matter notes, Pedrosa began his career in animation. Much of the Portuguese text remains untranslated, and readers will empathize with Simon's bewilderment. Younger teens may grow impatient with the slow pace, but the dreamy drawings and hopeful narrative of family and creativity will resonate with many. VERDICT For Europhile teen readers with an artistic streak.—Anna Murphy, Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn
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It's a story that could only have been told as a graphic novel; prose or even film wouldn't do it properly. There are very few words, and the majority of those are banal small talk. The artwork, taken as individual pieces, is for the most part not something to linger over. But put the words and drawings together, and Pedrosa performs feats of narrative magic which, fittingly, I can't describe with nouns and verbs. By not focusing on details of faces and places, we see past the surface, deep into each character's body language and attitude. So much of the personality and communication is done without words. At times the characters aren't even filled in, they float like ghosts over the backgrounds, creating moods and feelings beyond language and line.
Even in this English translation, quite a bit of dialogue remains in Portuguese, which I kind of understand, but it almost doesn't matter if you don't, since the point is to share the protagonist's experience of immersion in a new, foreign place.
I bought this book because I was mainly interested in a cartoon narrative about Portugal. It turns out that Portugal only accounts for around 1/4 of the book. But I was completely overwhelmed at how deeply moved, and inspired, I was by the story, more so than practically any novel I've read or film I've seen in a long time.