Morton Durr (text) and Lars Horneman (illustrator) Zenobia, University of Queensland Press, October 2018, 96 pp., RRP $19.99 (hbk), ISBN 9780702260254

Zenobia was a great Syrian warrior Queen who once ruled everything from Egypt to Turkey. She is also Amina’s inspiration, something her mother teaches her to hold on to in order to survive the war in her country, and the unrest when it reaches her village.

Zenobia is the story of Amina who lives in a village with her parents. The graphic novel opens when Amina on a refugee boat, alone, when it is caught in a storm. When she is washed overboard, she begins to remember her parents in her village, and their life together and what led her to be on a refugee boat on her own, without her parents.

The art is beautiful and desolate and tells a story as effectively as if every panel had dialogue – I think it will resonate more with readers to see what Amina goes through without being distracted by dialogue. The dialogue that is there is to the point, and succinct – and the combination of both makes for a heartbreaking story.

Zenobia is the story of a young girl, with a home and parents just like the readers discovering this graphic novel.  Grounding the story in the familiar will make young readers understand Amina’s  story and what refugees experience and why when they make a decision to board a boat to an uncertain future.

Teaching Notes are available.

Reviewed by Verushka Byrow

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