This extraordinary graphic novel manages to crystallize both eloquently and powerfully the struggle and courage of refugees as they make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to seek a better life. It is the story of one boy’s odyssey: Ebo is twelve years old and first his sister has left their village for Europe and now his adored older brother Kwame has left to follow in her footsteps. Their mother is dead so his brother and sister mean everything to him.
Told in present time and flashbacks, Ebo tells the story of how his journey began nineteen months earlier when he managed to board a bus to Agadez singing a baby to sleep in lieu of his fare. He despairs of ever finding his brother in this huge city but amazingly they find each other when Kwame hears his brother singing at a wedding. The brothers eke out an existence, working hard swapping commodities until they finally make enough money to pay traffickers to take them across the desert to Tripoli. Their vehicle breaks down forcing them to walk the remainder of the journey. Then the boys board a rickety rubber dinghy filled with fourteen passengers meant for six. They face constant danger and challenges along the way; their boat starts leaking and they turn it upside down to float and then nearly dying of hunger and thirst a larger boat packed with refugees only picks them up when they hand over any remaining money they have. And then the larger boat capsizes leaving everyone fighting for their lives. The story does conclude with a satisfying ending of sorts and hope for the future.
Ebo’s story is a triumph of the human spirit against all the odds. The humanity we all share is palpable showing both the kindness and sometimes unkindness of strangers and the many small yet significant details such as a boy wearing a Chelsea football shirt indicating we share many of the same dreams. The artwork manages to convey in striking images the drama and tension to maximum effect and with minimal text. The images of the chaos at sea and rescue at the end are desperately poignant. The afterword points out the chilling fact that in 2015 one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean to seek refuge in Europe. This is a heart-breaking yet uplifting story and every child should have access to a copy.