The Tale Of One Bad Rat
YA/adult graphic novel
You must know of Beatrix Potter's animal stories. Recall Peter
Rabbit who disobeyed his mother, nearly came to an untimely demise in
Mr. McGregor's garden, and ended up ill in bed drinking chamomile
tea? I'm sure you're also aware of child sexual abuse. But did you
ever know the author and social issue would be brought together in one
That was one for sure surprise for me. But then Bryan Talbot's
The Tale Of One Bad Rat is full of surprises.
When we meet Helen, Talbot's protagonist, she's a homeless,
vulnerable teen. In alternating scenes the reader sees her struggle
to survive in a big city and the family dysfunction that drove her to
running away. A group of other street kids takes her in. But when
her rat companion is killed by a cat and the member of Parliament who
tried to molest her tries to get her arrested she's on the road again.
Helen fell in love with a little set of Beatrix Potter books she
received one early childhood Christmas. They and her art materials
are among the few things she took with her when she ran away. When
she collapses in the countryside she's taken in by a kind couple who
give her a job in their inn. (Her room turns out to be the one Potter
herself stayed in.) For the first time in her life she's treated
kindly with an option to make the situation permanent.
She decides she is going to change and not be a victim any more.
The graphic novel format works much better than a more
traditional one could have. The sparseness of text and abundance of
well drawn illustrations allow Talbot to show, not tell. Facial
expressions are especially telling. As a very young child Helen
adores her father. By her teen years she views him with fear and
revulsion. Fewer visuals and more verbiage would have made the story a
lot more maudlin and clunky.
Graphic novels are really coming into their own. The Tale Of
One Bad Rat shows one of the wonderful directions they can move in.
On a personal note, I have just had a period of major success in my
writing career. I've had two pieces published in the Bangor Daily
News, one in their print edition and one on their Internet, and two of
my poems in print, one in Echoes magazine and one in Maine Peace
Action Committee Newsletter. I feel like my star is on the rise.
A great big shout out goes out to the editors who have faith in me and
Sent from my iPod