breather-coverBreather, created by Graeme Base, the award-winning illustrator and author of numerous picture books, is vividly brought to life in the comic book format by writer Sean Patrick O’Reilly and illustrator Asta Gunn. Base’s science fiction tale reflects early Australian government policies towards re-educating Australia’s Aboriginal population for assimilation into the dominant colonial populace. This is not a restrained mirroring of those mid-20th century practices, although it is set in the future and features alien creatures. The beginning of this slight book shows how invaders from the Birshh Dynasty (I may have mentioned that the storyline is not all that subtle) capture numerous local inhabitants of Otarius. Over the years the invaders conduct various experiments on the captives physically and mentally in an attempt to create a superefficient slave class. The readers, and the modified generation of the captive Otarans, discover just how much the hybrids have been manipulated to believe in the essential nature of their breathing apparatus, when a young female, Lilli, escapes the lab. Upon discovering her freedom and unknown powers, Lilli unites with the original inhabitants of the country to resist and overthrow the Birshh Dynasty for once and for all.

The clear, colourful illustrations are arranged in large panels that effortlessly direct the flow of the story. There are several substantial wordless sequences throughout the story, some prefaced with a concise text box specifying the number of years that have passed, where the illustrations fruitfully carry the story. Some of the other panels are text-heavy and not as successful. The background greys and greens effectively communicate the sterile and lush environments of both the laboratory and the Otarian world.

This review has been done from a pdf so I cannot comment on the quality of the paper and actual heft of the 42-page book. The story is too didactic and the metaphors too heavy-handed for this reviewer; however, it would work well as an introduction to a topic that needs discussing far beyond the Otarian and Australian borders.

by Graeme Base, Sean Patrick O’Reilly
Art by Asta Gunn
ISBN: 9781771350648
Arcana, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: (12+)

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta


    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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