The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane

The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane. Translated from the French & Afterward by Matt Madden

Pages: 85
Ages: 14+
First Published: Oct. 26, 2010
Publisher: First Second
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

What, are you still snoozing?

Acquired: Received a Review Copy from First Second Books.

Reason for Reading: The plot. I enjoy stories of childhood and the setting of Guadeloupe certainly piqued my interest.

This is the story of a day in the life of the three Zabime sisters on the first day of summer vacation. Set on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe it has a unique setting of barefoot children amongst tropical flora and fauna. The girls start their day teasing one another with the most outgoing of the three, M’Rose, pulling a prank that scares the other two. The girls meet up with a couple of boys they know and lounge around taking mangoes from an orchard owned by a mean man. Here the story also divides and starts telling us a little of what has been going on so far in the boys’ day. M’Rose separates from the other two sisters as a fight between the school bully and an unknown boy has been called at the crossroads at noon and the other two girls don’t want to go, but M’Rose is just the type to want to watch a fight. The girls divide into two groups and both end up watching and participating in typical acts of childhood misbehaviour, neither satisfying them in the end.

This is a poignant and candid story of childhood unlike most such stories; it is not nostalgic nor does it leave one with a sense of warmness. The author has captured that grain of malice that is inherently found in children and captures it perfectly throughout the day as it surfaces through normal interaction between children and when they find themselves in distress. While the book explores this meanness, it isn’t a mean story, and likewise, while the story is set in a luscious tropical environment the themes of childhood could take place anywhere, rural or urban. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it to be a remarkable tale that will be unforgettable for me. The book is suggested for young adults but I think adults are going to enjoy the book on a different level, already having experienced youth and now seeing this acrimony in their own children and recognising it for the seed that a child grows out of with the proper nurturing.

The art must also be mentioned as it is spectacular. It is done heavily in black ink and very expressive and realistic. Though the book is oversized, I only wish it could have been bigger as some of the panels seem too small to contain this type of art as the thickness of the black brush strokes sometimes lose the detail in other areas as they are squished into a small frame. The true beauty of the art is visible in the larger frames.

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