Thursday, 9 May 2013

Akissi by Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin (Flying Eye Books)

Off the top of your head, can you think of many comics where the main character is black? OK one or two? Now can you think of any comics where the main character is a black girl / woman? Coming up short, perhaps? Alright then, can you think of any comics where the main character is a black girl and the comic is geared at kids just discovering the joy of comics for themselves at the age of 5?

Not easy is it - so thank goodness for Akissi, by Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin. Not only does it satisfy all those criteria, it's also astonishingly funny, wildly energetic and completely and utterly addictive - as a good comic for kids should be. It's been available for a while elsewhere but we're finally getting the chance to enjoy the translated version, courtesy of the utterly fabulous Flying Eye Books.

Akissi is a little girl living in a township in Africa and this collection of some of her most popular stories (in one deliciously bound hardback volume) tells the everyday story of Akissi's life. She reminds me of Minnie the Minx crossed with Beryl the Peril (no bad thing on both counts) and her frenzied and quite often hectic lifestyle is a joy to read and behold.

In "Feline Invasion" we learn what happens when Akissi's mum sends her out on a fairly simple errand to deliver some fish to her Auntie. Sounds easy right? But the neighbourhood cats are hungry and Akissi soon finds out that they're also extremely sneaky and cunning too.

Other stories slowly introduce us to the rest of Akissi's family, her friends and her world. The draw here is the culture change, and the dialogue which feel fresh and completely far removed from the 'westernised' comics we've enjoyed so far (with one or two Japanese exceptions, it's very VERY difficult for comic novices to find comics from around the world that are accessible for young children).
Akissi is also around Charlotte's age, so for Charlotte she can more readily identify with and bond with a little girl who gets into all sorts of scrapes and adventures just living a fairly normal life without any superpowers or crazed power-mad baddies looming in the wings.

The stories are funny - funny in the same way classic Brit comics like the Beezer and Topper used to be, with that same slightly zany and exaggerated version of the world viewed through the window of youthful innocence. Kids chortle and snort at Akissi's (often quite naughty) behaviour, while adults will quietly chuckle to themselves at some of the things that kids don't pick up on (the Akissi story about the little sister is beautifully written and very funny - it's also our favourite of the collection mainly because we completely fell in love with BouBou the Monkey!)

Flying Eye are rapidly becoming our 'go-to' for interesting, beautiful and wholly original books and comics. If your children (boys OR girls) are looking for a funny and entertaining comic anthology that's accessible, fun and brilliantly illustrated, meet Akissi, she's going to rock your world!

Charlotte's best bit: "The Baby" story (aww such a cute baby) and of course, BouBou the Monkey.

Daddy's favourite bit: Such a fresh and brilliant comic that impresses with every turn of the page. We can't wait to read more about Akissi and really hope that Flying Eye also pick up Abouet and Sapin's other comics too.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Flying Eye / Bounce Marketing)