The adoption, a graphic novel written by Zidrou (read more about him here) and illustrated by Arno Monin is a different kind of ‘coming of age’ story. Here Gabriel, a 75-year-old retired butcher in France, has to feel his way through the changes when his son Alain and daughter-in-law adopt Lynette Quinaya, a tour year old from Peru, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake there.
Initially, the story looks like an ‘old curmudgeon initially resisting a cute toddler teaching him how to love again’ story. That assumption disappears with the first panels gently hinting at the uncomfortable self-congratulations (they call it “ heroic ”) or xenophobia by some characters about the adoption. The slow build-up establishes Gabriel in the context of his friendships, his family, his sense of loss after retirement from his butcher shop, his long relationship with his son, and how little Quinaya gradually influences and transforms him into a more loving person.
However, a series of hints builds a surprising turnaround halfway through, taking the story into completely uncharted territory. As the rest of the book progresses, it delves sensitively and imaginatively into Gabriel̵
The slow unfolding of the relationship between Gabriel and little Quinaya – and all the changes Gabriel experiences – occurs in a sensitive way both in word and image. The illustrator has an almost cinematographic approach – kind of like a French movie (but this is a modern France, with immigrants fully participating in the main characters). Panels delicately outline interactions and focus on small details to make a point or convey a mood. The elderly get wrinkles and everything; the locations for the story are fully realized illustrations with a distinct sense of place. The story is a family drama told with imagination, charm and honesty, centered on an older man who shows that it is never too late to learn. It’s a different kind of coming of age story – a coming of age story.