As an author who is also going through school for animation, I admire those who endeavor to both write and draw. It’s not easy to balance two talents, and to be good enough at both to present a clean, professional-looking finished product. That’s why I was so excited to meet bilingual author and artist Michele LaFramboise.
Michele clearly has a passion for her work, was fun to talk to, and gave me a great autograph and drawing after I purchased her short graphic novel, The General’s Garden. I also agreed to give her a review, and so, review I shall.
The General’s Garden revolves around the exploits of three kids in a science fiction setting, who break into a General’s garden, and start eating his food, only to be discovered, sentenced to work and then sent home.
Let’s start with the things I really liked. First of all, the production values on the book are very, very nice. The fonts, layout and colour scheme of the cover are lovely and appealing, and drew me in right away. The interior was also quite crisp, and the line art had great weight and balance to it. I think my favorite thing about this book was actually the backgrounds, as I really admired the texture and artistry in Michele’s pen work, and the depictions of the garden are rich, clear, well-balanced and interesting.
As for the plot, I’m not sure I got it. I think this may be the problem of the translation. I wish my French was better, so that I could have read it in its original form, but alas, I only got to grade eleven French class. My main critique, as I see it in this version, is that there are lots of fun shenanigans that will interest kids and young teens, but I’m not sure I get the context. Why are warriors the best gardeners? Why are there hints of technology in what mostly seems to be a fantasy context? I’m also not sure why the arrival of the parents solves the kids’ problems so easily. They clearly seem to know each other, but I’m not sure how. I’m going to assume there’s a larger universe at play here, which most readers are familiar with, but I am not. There also didn’t seem to be much character change. The kids are bratty when they break in, and bratty when they leave. There were also a couple of printing issues in my version, where pages repeated themselves, although this may just be an isolated error.
So, my verdict on the General’s Garden would be: give it a look, especially if you can read French, and enjoy Michele’s artistry and unique vision of a garden in a far-off place. I’d say this book would be great for kids ranging from about nine to fifteen.