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Marin Darmonkow
Author, Illustrator
The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel
Marin , author
The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel is a cautionary tale of the ultimate friendship. It is a heartbreaking story of two boys, a refugee and a child from a wealthy suburb. Gabriel lives with his father in a large house surrounded by other large houses. One day, while exploring the beach, Gabriel meets Jibreel. Jibreel lives with his father in the upside-down boat that brought them across the sea. With similar stories of devastating loss, yet joyful dreams and a love for flying, the boys form an incredible and indestructible friendship. This is a heartbreaking story – a children’s picture book with a powerful message that is worth hearing.
Reviews
Marin’s (The Tale of Was and Das) fourth entry in his 2Gether picture book series is a dark story friendship, adult violence, and tragedy set against the backdrop of a refugee crisis. Gabriel, a boy of indeterminate age, lives a somewhat privileged life alone with his father, after his mother’s death in childbirth. He and his father travel to the beach weekly, on the day his nanny does not work, and Gabriel spends time exploring while his father stays in the car. On one of these trips, Gabriel meets Jibreel, another motherless boy who lives in a makeshift refugee camp on the shore, and they form a fast friendship.

Addressing potentially upsetting topics with younger children is a difficult undertaking, and Marin makes every effort, via the use of evocative digital collage illustrations and vivid prose, to make comprehensible to his readers the typically mature topics of racism, the dangers refugees face, and loneliness. However, the story’s word choice learns toward a more mature audience than that of the typical picture book. And one main element of the plot is not fully explained (the boys’ building of a “digital airplane”).

Moreover, the book’s bleak, abrupt ending, in which the boys burn to death as the result of a hate crime perpetrated by Gabriel’s father, will strike many adults as inappropriate for picture book readers. While there is some hope—the narration describes Jibreel’s dwelling turning into an airplane and taking off with “the two angels inside,” as though to carry them to the next phase of their cosmic journey—this is a shocking development, and the last sentence of the book is “life isn’t fair.” This ambitious story is well told, but its subject matter may be too much for young kids.

Takeaway: This dark picture book addresses racism, hate crimes, and cosmic unfairness in bleak fashion.

Great for fans of: Irena Kobald’s My Two Blankets, Wendy Meddour’s Lubna and Pebble.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B

Luiza Junqueira

Loved it! 😍

A powerful, dense picture book about the friendship between a refugee and a suburb child. And the things that brought them together.

This is a dense, heartbreaking book with a very powerful message. The tale about two boys, with different backgrounds, but similar losses and dreams, that became friends. They shared hopes, passions, and supported each other.

Gabriel lived with his dad in a big house in a fancy neighbourhood. His mom passed away the night he was born. He is mostly on his own, reading and playing video games. His dad doesn't play with him but takes him to the beach every Sunday. And was at the beach that he met Jibreel.

Jibreel lived with his dad on an upside-down boat. The same boat they used to cross the sea. He was alone most of his time as he lost her mom when they were crossing (she drowned) and his dad worked seven days a week to support them.

The friendship grew stronger fast and the boys enjoyed each other company. They played, made plans for the future, and started a new project together, based on a passion and dream they had in common. Unfortunately, they will also be together to face hate, judgment, and violence.

Only a few times I read a children's picture book like this. It's a really good one, but also dramatic, deep and with a sad story. From the characters' names choice (Gabriel is the message of God for Christians and Jibreel, is the chosen one to communicate Allah's messages to His profits according to Islamic faith), to the symbolism used by the author, it's a beautiful work. It's also a great tool to discuss how aggression, blind hate, and prejudice can affect all of us and the consequences are never positive.

Illustrations are artistic and beautiful. They enhance the words and complement them. You can feel the characters. Breathtaking and pungent.

A great addition to personal libraries and to schools and definitely a conversation starter. Group readings can benefit. The book certainly tackles important subjects that we sometimes avoid talking about with children... and we shouldn't.

 

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