Books for Babes provides info on the sort of comics that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. This week we recommend ‘The Music Box: 1. Welcome to the Pandorient’, the debut of an exciting new all-ages series from Europe Comics.
By Stefania Rudd. These days ideas and information know no physical boundaries due to technology that allows us to interact with each other in real time. I think it’s fantastic that we have the ability to share things like comics and graphic novels with new audiences across continents without any lag time, and with that in mind I’d like to direct you towards Europe Comics, a partnership made up of 13 European publishers with the goal of increasing the availability of comics from around the globe.
Europe Comics gives us readers the luxury of discovering new books and stories that go beyond the boundaries of our little corners. This week we’re going to look at one of their most recent series: The Music Box by Belgian writer (and former teacher/principal) Carbone (Bénédicte Carboneill) and Congolese-born and Belgian educated artist, Gijé (Jérôme Gillet). The basic premise of this debut issue? A young girl, Nola, receives a gift for her eighth birthday, something that will expand her world in more ways than she could ever imagine.
Nola lives with her father in a cozy home, mourning the unexpected loss of her mother, Annah. Even though she is quite sad it’s Nola’s eight birthday, and her father has gifted to her one of her mother’s beloved possessions, a music box. Initially she is overwhelmed by its beauty and the lovely tune it plays. However, as she soon discovers, this is no ordinary music box—in fact it’s a portal to the microcosm, Pandorient.
Nola is led to this new world by one of its inhabitants, Andrea, who needs Nola’s help to save her own mother, Matilda, from a mysterious illness. When she first arrives, Nola is surprised to learn that Annah had apparently made frequent visits to Pandorient and aided the inhabitants in her youth, including Matilda, with whom she formed a friendship. Through the support of Andrea and her brother Igor, Nola uses her wits and knowledge while navigating the strange rules and varied species of the Pandorient.
It’s tempting to create a story based on the scene contained inside things such as snow globe music boxes… and, perhaps, insert ourselves into that action. Carbone’s story is definitely one that many children have likely imagined for themselves, though there’s an added emotional boost by having Nola enter into a world once explored by her departed mother. The dialogue is easy to read and uses everyday words and sentences to get the tale across. It’s easy to identify with Nola, who has a personality that is both tangible and very relatable, which is aided by the issue’s beautiful and breathtaking artwork.
The Music Box is the first foray into comics for Gijé, and I think he has accomplished wonderful things with this debut. The artwork has a dreamlike, ethereal feel to it, thanks in part to the use of a vast color palette. Gijé’s focus on detail for every page makes each sequence feel more lifelike: whether it’s rain hitting a window pane, streams of light coming out of a lamp, or the direction of wood grain on the floor, every panel is grounded in a sort of realism. Even in Pandorient, where there are creatures and beings of every conceivable ilk, Gijé lends them a human-like quality, an approachable familiarity.
The Music Box: 1. Welcome to Pandorient is a magical story filled with great imagination and heart. Its clean art and clear writing make this an easily understandable story for children and preteens, and as such it’s a great introductory graphic novel for a younger audience. The portal has been opened. We’ve stepped into a larger world. Standing side-by-side with Nola, thanks to Europe Comics, we know there is no turning back.
Written by Bénédicte Carboneill, aka Carbone.
Art and coloring by Jérôme Gillet, aka Gijé.
This book contains loss of a parent, and would be good for intermediate (and above) readers.
Age range 8-12