I’m not a fan of religion as a topic, and despite the accolades this graphic novel had received, I wasn’t exactly rushing to the bookstore to grab a copy. But I’m glad I did, because it really delivers on all levels.
Joann Sfar’s art took a while for me to warm up to, but on every page there’s something new – a detail, a sight gag, a different technique – that proves he’s an illustrator at the top of his game. And the story…wow. It’s poignant, charming, funny, heartwarming, heartbreaking, and meaningful. Sfar uses the characters of an old Rabbi in Algeria, his daughter, and his cat (who gains the gift of speech after eating the Rabbi’s parrot) to masterfully ruminate on the nature of religion and Judaism, human nature, philosophy, and relationships. And just when you think that the subject may be getting a bit too deep or heady, he very naturally and organically interjects subtle humor into the narrative.
Through the pages of this book, I traveled to Algeria and Paris in the 1930s, saw human foibles through the eyes of a smart-ass cat, and fell in love with the central characters. A truly fantastic work of sequential art and storytelling. I just got the sequel to this book, and I’m looking forward to reading it as well.
(This review originally appeared on my Ferret Press blog, August 5th, 2011 )