Alpha by Bessora and Barroux


Reading this personal story brings home the realities behind what is happening to many migrants and in particular the uncertainties they face.

Alpha is the first title from The Bucket List, a new imprint from publisher Barrington Stoke, which aims to make available ‘bold and truthful writing for children and young people.’ Translated from French by Sarah Ardizzone, Alpha – a man from Côte d’Ivoire – tells how he attempts to travel from Abidjan to Paris, searching for his wife and son who have gone there in pursuit of a better life and because they believe their relatives are there.

He tells his tale in a matter of fact tone but it is far from being devoid of emotion. The harshness and difficulties, the confusion of not being clear where you are, the long periods staying in one place to earn enough to continue, the dangers and the bureaucracy he meets all come across, but so do the companionship and caring for others he finds along the way. The reader travels with Alpha, not knowing whether he will reach his destination or whether he will find his family.

This graphic novel is illustrated by Barroux who has produced some very different books from Line of Fire, the diary of a World War One soldier to Where’s the Elephant? a wordless picture book for young children with an environmental theme. Here he used felt tip pens and a notebook from a supermarket – the kind of materials that would be available to Alpha – to create his illustrations.

Alpha is primarily a book for teenagers and adults but teachers can make their own judgement about whether they could share it with older primary children if they know them well. I’ve made it my book of the week as it deals impressively with an important subject for all human beings in the world today.

The Bucket List 9781911370017