Clara cover detail

A Girl, Her Doll, and Her Sleeping Mother: “Clara”

Cover of Clara by Christophe Lemoine and Cecile

“Clara” is an original graphic novel, telling a complete story in less than 50 pages.  It’s a relatively quick 50 pages, too. You can read the whole thing in about 15 minutes if you’re in a hurry.

Written by Christophe Lemoine, it is drawn and colored by Cecile.

It’s a beautiful piece of work that will show me whether you have a heart or not.

 

About the Subject Line

Yes, “sleeping” is a euphemism.

Look, I’m an easy mark this year for sad stories of children losing a parent.  But this one still got me.

First page of Clara by Cecile

 

Clara is the story of a cute little girl who loves her mother.  The book starts with their average day:  Mom picks her up at school, they walk home through the town, stop to say hello to the ducks, take a few passes on the swings and head home to wait for Dad to come home.

Just a simple, bucolic lifestyle, what every kid wants and deserves.

Until that one day where Mom and Dad seem sad and forget her birthday.  Then Mom has to go for a trip to the hospital.

This is where I start to scream at the parents who aren’t telling Clara about what’s going on yet.

Then Mom dies and Clara has a hard time understanding what’s going on. She’s just too young.

Your heart will break.

“Clara” is the story of how a little girl learns to cope with the loss of her mother, and how her last birthday gift helps.

 

Clara's mother is in the hospital

 

In a way, the story reminds me a bit of “Inside Out,” as Clara enters a fantasy world in the second half to come to grips with how the world works, and to have her moment as the protagonist of the story acting on her own accord to accomplish her goals.

It’s also a bit of “I Kill Giants.”

It’s a story filled with heart, hurt, and love.  It doesn’t feel maudlin or like it’s a cheap plea for sympathy from its readers.  It’s just an adorable and heart-breaking book.

 

Storybook Art

Cecile’s art style feels like a children’s picture book.  With the soft painted colors and the simple shapes and designs, “Clara” has a clear and consistent creative design.  It’s cute and fitting for a book like this. It helps make this feel more like a children’s book than a graphic novel.

It’s still fully sequential storytelling, though, not illustrations with spare sentences over top.  But that’s how it feels.

The only black lines in the book are the letters in the word balloons, and even those are outlined in what looks like a watercolor gray tone.

Lettering sample from Clara

The lettering (by Clarix) is terrific, by the way.  It has a great life and bounce to it, and it’s done beautifully.  Love the font choice.  There are no crossbar-I issues here.

No excuses have to be made for an imperfect translation requiring odd font size shifts of awkward fills of balloons.

It looks natural, like it was written this way in the first place.

Translation work is credited to Kevin Sullivan, who does a wonderful job in keeping the language simple enough, given that the entire book is from the child’s point of view.

Recommended?

Clara swimming in her tears for her mother

If you have the stomach for it, and you don’t mind shedding a tear while reading, yes.

It’s a beautiful book.

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #43.)

 

P.S. It’s also available on Kindle, if you prefer:

 

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