Dodo, by Felipe Nunes, is only 84-pages long, but has a lot to say. We experience the story of Dodo through the eyes of Laila, who is six years old. Laila’s parents are in the midst of a separation. Her mother is keeping her out of school, which causes Laila to feel bored and lonely at home. She gazes out her window at the park across from the house. She observes an old man sleeping on a park bench. Two children chasing after each other, and a cat digging through the trash. Then all of a sudden she notices a weird bird that eventually comes into her house.
Laila names the bird Ralph, and he turns out to be quite the guest. He is disruptive. He breaks dishes and eats everything in sight. Ralph is short in stature, with a beak that has a red stripe across it. His coat is a bright ball of hot pink and he has narrow turquoise eyes. Ralph is inquisitive about his surroundings and Laila. He is more than just a dodo bird, he is a metaphor for Laila’s internal struggles with her parents’ separation. Life is chaotic and messy and she just wants to escape it all.
Nunes uses color to reflect reality vs. fantasy. When the story dips into fantasy and whimsy the color palette is a mixture of pink, purple and golden yellows. It conveys a child’s point of view of wonder and magic. Scenes with Laila’s mother are in earth tones, grounding it in reality. This reflects Laila’s wish to escape from the harshness and confusion she feels about her parents’ pending divorce
Reading Dodo, I found myself becoming engaged and sympathetic towards Laila’s mother. I understood from the dialogue the pain she was going through as her ten-year marriage was coming to an end. She is wistful, taking Laila to the spot where they had their first date. In a series of a few panels, her emotions waver between romantic, disappointed, and acceptance that it is time to move on. She tells her daughter that the situation is like losing an old doll and getting a new one. In time, she will learn to accept and come to terms with their new living arrangements. Laila’s face shows alarm, panic, and confusion as she tries to fathom a life without her father.
I really enjoyed Dodo and would highly recommend it for any library to purchase. I found it to be one of those graphic novels that had so many layers and there was so many emotions to unpack on the page. I struggled with the publisher’s age rating that this was aimed at 8-12 years old. I couldn’t see someone that age comprehending all the nuances, and the subject matter of divorce. My personal recommendation is that adults will get more out of this than children. The minimum age I would recommend this for is 13 and up.
by Felipe Nunes
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 years old