CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 16 . . . . December 16, 2011
A sophisticated and evocative graphic-novel story of the life of Billy Bishop, the most decorated Canadian among the World War I pilot “aces”. Born in Owen Sound, ON, Bishop used a combination of skill, determination, mental effort, and intelligence, not to mention some luck and coincidence, to take out 72 enemy planes, the third highest total of any pilot in the war. Flying dangerous missions over enemy territory in primitive early aircraft, Bishop managed to keep his sanity and his humanity intact in the face of incredible fear, returning to Canada to a hero’s welcome.
The graphic novel format is used here at its most powerful. With sparse narration and dialogue, the pictures tell the story of the frustration, fear, mental exertion, and camaraderie of war through skilful framing of faces, objects, and scenes. Facial close-ups – most notably Bishop’s – are used to drive home the emotions, while simple objects are used to frame scenes, such as a steaming mug of tea when Bishop rises early to embark on an unplanned mission to avenge his comrade’s death. But it is Bishop’s demons – his refusal to celebrate his enemies’ death, his reluctance to play the role of hero, his occasional solitude – that really complete the portrait of the man most of us only know as the name of Toronto’s island airport. A great addition to any graphic collection, and a terrific book for teen readers, reluctant or not.
Todd Kyle is the CEO of the Newmarket Public Library in Ontario.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.