Monday 22 August 2011

Review: The Kite Runner Graphic Novel by Khaled Hosseini, Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo

1970s Afghanistan: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives...Since its publication in 2003, The Kite Runner has sold twenty one million copies worldwide. Through Khaled Hosseini's brilliant writing, a previously unknown part of the world was brought to life. Now in this beautifully illustrated, four-colour graphic novel adaptation, The Kite Runner is given a vibrant new life which is sure to compel a new generation of readers.

I loved Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner when I read it some time ago, it is one of the books from the past ten years that still stands out in my mind years after reading it. I have only read it once, for fear that it would lose its impact on a second reading. I have also never watched the film adaptation as Hosseini's writing was so vivid in its descriptions of its characters and setting that I did not want my own mental images altered. So when this graphic novelisation of The Kite Runner arrived in the post from the good people at Bloomsbury was really was in two minds as to whether I would read it or not. Obviously in the end I did, or this review would not exist.

I was persuaded into reading this book by other reading memories I have: discovering for the first time Art Spiegelman's Maus, Joe Sacco's Palestine and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and to a slightly lesser extent Will Eisner's To The Heart Of The Storm, all graphic novels that deal with some pretty massive issues in a way that really touched me. I also have first-hand experience of seeing a disaffected male student at school, with no interest in politics or events outside of his immediate environment, let alone in another country, become much more engaged in Citizenship lessons and posing some pretty searching questions, after I had encouraged him to read Maus and then Palestine. The Kite Runner is another such story that when read and understood could help open the minds of students like this to important issues in a country that they hear a great deal about in the news, but I know for a fact that most would struggle with the original novel format. And so I decided to dive in and go for it, and I am really glad I did.

This is a visually stunning retelling of Hosseini's story and is already on the list as a definite purchase for the school library come the new academic year. Fabio Celoni and Mirka Andolfo have done a masterful job with the artwork, the illustrations perfectly capturing the settings and characters that I have held in my mind for the last few years. Andolfo's colouring brings Celoni's drawings, and with them the story, to life in a way that had me lingering over every panel as I slowly made my way through the story. The text has been adapted by Hosseini himself, and as such sticks very faithfully to the original novel's story. This does include some of the elements of The Kite Runner that caused controversy on its release and the subsequent attempts to have it banned in some libraries in the US. However, although present, the scenes in question are not as explicit in this adaptation and I would have no qualms in recommending it to 14+ teens who are mature enough to understand the background of intolerance and bigotry that lead Assef into behaving the way he does towards Amir and Hassan.

The press release from Bloomsbury states that "In this new stunning form, The Kite Runner is sure to compel a new generation of readers to discover a story of a boy and his country in a journey of love, loyalty, secrets and vengeance." and I am very much inclined to agree with them. I find that in the school where I teach, which is in a very white middle-class area, even the more able students have a scarily poor understanding of the issues affecting the people of Afghanistan, the Palestinian people and problems in other parts of the world, and at times this lack of understanding can make their opinions sound somewhat intolerant, especially where Moslems are concerned. Books like The Kite Runner are perfect for sparking off discussion and helping them develop a greater understanding of other faiths and cultures, and this graphic novelisation will hopefully encourage the less able readers or more disaffected students to do the same.

The Kite Runner graphic novel is published by Bloomsbury and is scheduled to be released on 5th September in paperback format.