Review by Frank Plowright
By this third selection of stories Akissi has a broad supporting cast of friends and foes younger and older that Marguerite Abouet feeds into stories collected here. They enrich the comedy dramas of the young Ivorian girl and her family, enabling Abouet to switch the tone, although Akissi’s basically considerate and helpful nature causing things to go wrong is a common theme. In the opening three stories she’s concerned about Pélagie’s parents getting divorced, miserable teacher Mr Adama tasking the class with writing a poem about their everyday experiences and having to get dressed up for the arrival of her great-uncle from Paris. However, although the same format of eight page stories is used, Abouet here connects them for the first time, concerns about the divorce and the possibility of Akissi moving to Paris running through half the book. An insight into the differences of Akissi’s world and ours is fear of France being so cold.
Mathieu Sapin’s art is the usual mixture of expressive personalities set in loosely drawn, but fully realised locations. He brings Akissi’s Abidjan suburb to life, and is great when moments of exaggeration are needed, seen on the sample art when one of Akissi’s classmates has to read out his essay about France. Abouet takes the opportunity to run through some standard jokes about how some foreigners consider the French.
As news of Akissi’s move to Paris spreads around her community, Abouet has many folk decide Akissi might be able to help them, and one comedy sequence after another concerns people asking favours. The nature of this will be obvious to adults, but is told well enough that the younger target audience just sees the requests as silly jokes. Having milked all she can out of the preparations for Paris, Abouet brings that plot to an abrupt close and continues business as usual. The theme hasn’t really been a great success, as it’s over-worked and leads to some repetition, but never to the point where Akissi‘s charm is lost.
The final story is beautifully composed, spiritual and both joyful and sorrowful, yet not in a way that will greatly upset young readers. Bonus pages include a maze, how to make an ugly princess dress (referencing a story), and funny maps of France and Ivory Coast. As of writing, this volume means all Akissi’s adventures in French are now also available in English. Let’s hope for more soon.