By Sam King
Dodo is an original graphic novel written by Brazilian cartoonist Felipe Nunes. It is a translated work published by BOOM! Studios/Kaboom! that was released in May of this year. It tells the story of a little girl named Laila whose parents are divorced. She finds a friend who helps her progress through a difficult time in her young life, showing that sometimes help can be found not through people, but by other means, including ourselves.
The title is Dodo, and there is clearly a dodo bird right on the book’s cover, but this is only partly a story about that bird. It is about what that dodo, named Ralph, means to Laila. The novel opens up with Laila at a swim class being picked up by her mother. The first few pages tell us a lot about the life that Laila is going through. Laila’s mother has been very busy, working to try and take care of her daughter, which leaves Laila unable to experience the same things as other children. They leave on a bicycle, which may be preferred transportation, or it may also show that the pair have fallen on tough economic times. Her mother tries to keep a positive attitude with Laila, but still, the little girl struggles with her situation. Neide is a girl that takes care of Laila while her mother is away, and Laila finds that her friends are too busy doing things to spend time with her. She has had to leave school and spends most of her time at home.
During her times in her room, Laila looks out the window at what is happening outside, watching the animals, like eagles and kittens. She stumbles upon a dodo and begins an imaginative journey, hiding from the dodo who she believes spotted her watching, wondering if birds eat birds, and pretending she is as fierce as an eagle, like the one she saw hunting. The dodo comes directly to her door and when Neide comes around, Laila tries rapidly to hide him. Her time with the dodo leads her into her father’s old study, where she isn’t supposed to be. By the end of the story, we realize that things are not quite as they seem and see why Laila went through the adventures she did with Ralph.
The art relies primarily on warm colors, like red, yellow, pink, and orange with other colors subtly included, but not as prominent. Laila has very cartoonish proportions, but her emotions are very well expressed in this style. Everything about her feels tiny, but large at the same time, which is seemingly reflective of her living situation. Her parents split has a huge impact on her life, even though she is such a small child and in the broader scheme of the world, it may not be seen as such a big deal. Many children endure the break-up of their parents, which may cause an undervaluing of the struggle those children have to go through as their life changes drastically from what they knew before.
I thought that Dodo was a very powerful story with a lot of emotional gravity to it. It would be a great work to present to kids to begin discussion of family dynamics and emotional struggles they may feel. Kids who have divorced parents may find this work to be just what they need to realize they are not alone, even if they feel that way. It is also a good story for parents, to understand what other children may be going through and see how their actions can deeply affect the way their child copes with decisions made that were for the best of the adults, without necessarily having the child’s overall wellbeing in mind. Children who are even just lonely may find a little bit of solace within its pages. Dodo is also a very creative story in how it approaches its subject matter, making it more adventurous and about how kids cope in more positive ways by latching onto external things, than a depressing story that is more realistic in some aspects. I highly recommend this work as it is a very artistic, positive look at childhood difficulty and adjustment.