Search for a Better Life in ‘The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration’ Graphic Novel Review

“…Leaving, arriving, returning–they’re all just different words for the same thing"
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The Blue Road – the first graphic novel by acclaimed poet and writer Wayde Compton and illustrator April dela Noche Milne – explores the world from a migrant’s perspective with dreamlike wonder. We are introduced to one Lacuna, she without a proper home. She’s also without much in this world: no family, no prospects, no past and seemingly not much of a future. The swamp has always been her home, and she’s just barely managing to survive from day to day. It’s not quite living and thus thriving, but it is sadly, all she’s known. This setup means the readers get a feel for the adventure and journey to come as Lacuna will need all her wits, hopes, and her ingenious nature to get her through each obstacle time and time again.

 

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Photo Credit: Erin Flegg

Wayde Compton spins a tale of someone looking for a place to call home, for a place to belong that is fantastic as it has seeped into the realm of fantasy. Not much is lost in the sauce narrative-wise as readers follow Lacuna, I, myself was able to follow her plight with each new obstacle and the parallels people in the real world can and do face. She’s a vital part to the story with her observations and understandings on how this new part of the world she’s entering works and how she can proceed. She doesn’t just move forward–she makes it so for those who may follow behind her, in an attempt to better their lives–can do so with more ease.

She works to make that road to finding a home and better options easier, so no one gets trapped, lost, or falls into the cracks again. In the second half of the book towards the end, using her ingenious nature, she later makes life much easier for herself and many others–totally disrupting a system in place that is a disservice to those like her. She even acknowledges her privilege in doing so when she learns that she can live a better life while some who were previously in her steps can not at the current moment. The ending and the surprising epilogue is a thing of beauty, showing us a character arc of a girl well developed, who has matured and continually brings revolution in her everyday life.

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The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration by Wayde Compton, illustrated by April dela Noche Milne (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019). Images reprinted with permission from the publisher.

April dela Noche Milne’s artwork is dreamy, and each page I want to drink up even before reading the words. Her artwork is a powerful companion to Compton’s prose and stands tall all on its own. Each section of the book has a visual highlight and changes up: the dreary swamp of ink, the terrifying claustrophobic thicket of tickets, the plain but seemingly uncrossable rainbow border and so on. Following Lacuna on her journey visually is a treat, especially in the second half of the book where the art doesn’t have to be super detailed to be able to show the immediacy of the problems that so many people face in this new place.

Facial expressions, gestures, and different colors all aid in the canvas of art that is here. I especially loved the significance of the book’s ending and the epilogue as it tied together with the entire narrative here, and the artwork surely was a grand compliment to the plot and seeing it filled me with so much hope. Worthy to note: There is a small scene of violence that proves a big point centering the border that isn’t gory, thankfully for those with younger readers following along.

“…Leaving, arriving, returning–they’re all just different words for the same thing: starting over”

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The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration by Wayde Compton, illustrated by April dela Noche Milne (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019). Images reprinted with permission from the publisher.

What I love most about The Blue Road is the handling of a fantasy setting and the feel of folklore and fable in a narrative that touches upon how people are denied their humanity in a bigger view of the world with its existing power structures and institutions. This is a story that challenges how borders are defined and can be harmful while also examining how the attitudes of those who live amongst migrants, those looking for better lives can be often aloof and counterproductive. It’s a subversive and quite powerful clever way to look at such a big issue, and  there is always so much talk about and present it in a tale meant for children and young adults with much clarity and ease.

Granted, this creative team are both Vancouver based, they are still very much BIPOC and seeing and Anti-immigrant sentiment and violence towards those groups isn’t just contained in one country or one continent. It is violence and attitudes of that kind that are of an international flavor and seek to be an ongoing and intensifying plight those to it affects. My one criticism is on a handful of pages throughout reading the colored text boxes blended right in with the art, and it was hard to make out the words here and there. It was a bit of a distraction and could be a slight frustration to other readers, I think of those with seeing disabilities in particular.

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The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration by Wayde Compton, illustrated by April dela Noche Milne (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2019). Images reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Who is this Book for, exactly? For children and young adults and even for those who call themselves parents and grandparents. Reading level, I’d say this is at least for the middle school leveled reader but surely those who are older can read aloud to the babies. The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration is a book that you’ll need to bring along your imagination for the fantastic sights and bring your compassion for the strange and almost defeating circumstances and ideals that come with this tale of people like Lacuna wanting a better life. This may be my first introduction to both Compton and Milne, yet I know gold when I see it: this offering is a dreamy tale of perspective of blissfully captured in graphic novel form.

9.2 Keys That Serve You In More Than One Way out of 10

Wayde Compton is the award-winning author of four books and the editor of two anthologies. His collection of short stories, The Outer Harbour, won the City of Vancouver Book Award in 2015, and he won a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 2011. Compton teaches Creative Writing at Douglas College. The Blue Road is based on a passage that first appeared in his debut poetry book 49th Parallel Psalm. See more of him on Twitter.

April dela Noche Milne is a Filipino Canadian artist based in Vancouver. She studied fine arts at Langara College and graduated with a BFA in illustration from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Her illustrations have been featured in Ricepaper, EVENT, and Briarpatch magazines. The Blue Road is her first graphic novel. See more of her on Twitter.

See more about The Blue Road and Vancouver based Arsenal Pulp Press here on their website.

 

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Out tomorrow: A big thank you to @arsenalpulp for sending us a copy of The Blue Road – the first graphic novel by acclaimed poet and prose writer @wayde.compton and illustrator @apricotjoy – it is a brilliant one that explores the world from a migrant’s perspective with dreamlike wonder. • • • Who is this Book for, exactly? For children and young adults and even for those who call themselves parents & grandparents. Reading level , I’d say this is at least for the middle school leveled reader but surely those who are older can read aloud to the babies. • • • The Blue Road: A Fable of Migration is a book that you’ll need to bring along your imagination for the fantastic sights and bring your compassion for the strange and almost defeating circumstances and ideals that come with this tale of migrants people like Lacuna wanting a better life. Review coming this week! Whew! This is a good book, y’all! ✨✨✨✨ #childrensbooks #bipoc ##arsenalpulppress #migration #bnplit #graphicnovels

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  • Carrie McClain

    Reviewer/Editor/Magical Girl

    Carrie McClain is writer, editor, social media maven and media scholar. Other times she's known as a Starfleet Communications Officer, Comics Auntie, and Golden Saucer Frequenter. Shuri is her favorite Disney Princess. Nowadays you can usually find her buried under a pile of Josei manga. She/Her

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