Monday, March 2, 2009

Tales from the Farm

Lemire, Jeff. Ills. Jeff Lemires. Essex County Vol. 1: Tales from the Farm. Atlanta: Top Shelf Productions, 2007.
[Book credit cover:]

Alex Award (2008)
Doug Wright Award, Best Emerging Talent (2008)

After the death of his mother, Lester moves in with his uncle who lives on a farm. In between school, homework and feeding the chicks, Lester finds time to fight aliens with Jimmy LeBeuf, a local guy who used to play for the NHL and hasn't been the same since.

This Alex Award winner takes a mature look at child's play. Lester's pretend play mixes seamlessly with his real life, his and his uncle's, flashbacks of his mother on her death bed, and comics that Lester draws himself (actually attributed to author/illustrator Jeff Lemire's 9 year-old self). His growing, equal relationship with Jimmy is in sharp contrast with the relationship Lester has with his uncle, which is strained with the death of his mother, chores and a serious lack of understanding on both sides.

Though the illustrations are in black and white, they lend beauty and emotion to this all but wordless story. Unfortunately, for me at least, even the beauty of this string of events, especially the depiction of Lester's uncle's pain and effort to relate to his nephew, does not make up for the fact that there is barely a plot. This story covers the four seasons of the year on the farm, and though we watch how things change for Lester and how he and Jeff's alien fantasy evolves, I couldn't quite get over waiting for something to finally happen.

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