Thursday, June 23, 2011

I recently read a series of graphic novels written by Canadians, David Alexander Robertson and illustrated by Scott B. Henderson.

7 Generations is a four part series of graphic novels that tell the story of a contemporary Aboriginal family living through a pretty traumatic time. The first book, Stone, introduces us to Edwin and his mother struggling to cope with his suicide-attempt. The mother is desperate to help her son and begins to tell him stories of his family, starting with Stone who lived in the early part of the 19th century. She tells Edwin that he has much to live for and “our past has shaped us all. You, me, all of us…you should know where you came from.”

Stone, is a young man on the cusp of adulthood in the early 1800s, seeking his place within his community. A vision quest, the death of his brother, marriage, fatherhood, participating in a thirst dance and ‘making of a brave’ ceremony all set him on his path.

There is a message here as Edwin learns from Stone’s experiences that “we all have someone to fight for” giving us purpose and “maybe you will know that someone is fighting for you, too.” The storytelling is strong enough that the message doesn't dominate. I got caught up in both stories wanting to know more about Edwin and why he tried to kill himself and I wanted to see what happened to Stone, too.

Scars (pt.2) and Ends/Begins (pt.3) continue with Edwin’s story and we begin to piece together the source of Edwin’s pain.  His mother continues trying to make him realize that he is strong enough to confront his demons.  In the second installment, this is done with a story of a distant relative, White Cloud who survived a small pox epidemic that wiped out his family and immediate community.  The third novel tells of Edwin’s father’s experience at a residential school and how his own pain lead him to abandon his wife and son.

Each of these short graphic novels (30 pages) is very well done. The well executed illustrations tell as much of the story as the text. They can be very dramatic and will hold the reader’s interest.  Though the topic is a heavy one I found it to be not overdone.  The books are best read sequentially to follow with Edwin’s quest and to make the connections between the generations more easily understood.

Recommended for grades 10 and up.

I’m looking forward to reading the recently released, fourth installment, The Pact.

PS. Check out this YouTube video of the author explaining the creative process for developing the series.


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