In Review: Illegal by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin, with art by Giovanni Rigano

Illegal Graphic Novel - Cover

Writers: Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin
Art: Giovanni Rigano
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Out: Now
Review by Jonathan Rigby of Page 45, Nottingham

The Book: This is an award-winning powerful and timely story about one boy’s epic journey across Africa to Europe, a graphic novel for all children with glorious colour artwork throughout. From Eoin Colfer, previously Irish Children’s Laureate, and the team behind his bestselling Artemis Fowl graphic novels.

Ebo: alone.

His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe.

Ebo’s epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister.

“So far, this is not much of a new life.”

A panel from "Illegal" the graphic novel by writers Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, and artist Giovanni Rigano

A panel from “Illegal” the graphic novel by writers Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, and artist Giovanni Rigano

The Review: I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. If I were living in extreme poverty in, for example, certain places in Africa, I am pretty sure I would be attempting to get into Europe by any means possible, no matter how long it took. We can debate all day about what has to happen in those poverty-stricken countries, both economically and socially, to dissuade people from needing to leave, but the fact remains, when someone has literally nothing, and certainly nothing to lose, you are not going to prevent them from trying to reach somewhere where they earnestly believe they might be able to build a new and better life. Whatever it takes…

That people are willing to risk their lives trying should give you some indication of just how bad their situations are. We hear stories of treks on crammed jeeps, indeed even on foot, through the searing heat of the deserts and overloaded cargo ships to Europe organised at great expense by people traffickers, but I don’t think we can actually understand what is really involved in undertaking such an arduous, dangerous journey. To be those people so desperate to change their lives that they are willing to put them at such extreme, sustained risk. Even if those new lives aren’t exactly what they expected, or wanted.

For more on this, please read Olivier Kugler‘s Escaping Wars and Waves and Kate Evans‘ Threads from the Refugee Crisis – first-hand accounts for some of these individuals’ lives.

Illegal Graphic Novel - Sample Art Illegal attempts to show us their stories through the big, emotion-laden eyes of one young child.

It’s difficult to know what to add to the publisher’s outline, really. I can only suggest picking up this work, having a look for yourself, and I suspect if you have any soul at all, you’ll be entranced and appalled in equal measures. It’s sensitive and intelligent writing from Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, who put poor young Ebo and his older brother through hazardous situation after situation. It’s never sensationalist or hyperbolic in tone, instead focussing on capturing the humanity of the people who undertake these odysseys.

Illegal Graphic Novel - Sample Art

In that sense, artistically, they have found the perfect foil in Giovanni Rigano. If you don’t find yourself rooting for Ebo, portrayed note-perfectly as the innocent child he is, trapped in the most horrendous and continually trying of crazy circumstances, with his big soulful eyes, that actually save the day upon one occasion, well, then, I suspect you have no soul of your own.

Prepared to be moved…

Jonathan Rigby

Illegal is available here to order from Page 45 – and is also available from other book shops


• Eoin Colfer is online at | Find Eoin on Facebook | Follow Eoin on Twitter @eoincolfer

• Andrew Donkin is online at | Follow him on Twitter @AndrewDonkin

• Giovanni Rigano is online at

• For more information on Hodder Children’s Books visit

Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Current British Publishers, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Reviews

Tags: , , , , ,