Esther’s Notebooks


When award-winning film maker and graphic artist Riad Sattouf met real-life ‘Esther’, he was entranced. She was an engaging and animated dinner guest, keen to share her experiences and opinions. It inspired him to keep a graphic diary of her life. Thereafter, through her tenth, eleventh, twelfth and now thirteenth year, we’ve had a year of Esther.

While the real-life Esther is a secret, her thoughts and feelings are here to see. It means we realise how rattled she is by her old phone, that she compares her family’s circumstances against those of the other pupils at her ‘posh school’. What’s more, we’re an audience in a heated debate between her father and older brother about wealth and equality. How can her father detest the wealth when his daughter attends a ‘posh school’. Then again, we watch Esther’s musings and understandings of politics. These are heightened by her anxiety at her father’s threat that the family will move to Belgium should Marie Le Pen be elected as President.

The graphics are truthful and buzzing, Esther’s dichotomy between the girl presented to the world and the real girl, bared for us to realise. Altogether Esther’s Notebooks: Tales from my twelve-year-old life, is a superb graphic novel. We recommend this to our newer teens, older readers, particularly.

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Esther’s Notebooks

Tales from my twelve-year-old life

Riad Sattouf

(Pushkin Press)

Esther’s Notebooks are created by Riad Sattouf, César winning filmmaker. It seems  Sattouf creates a notebook a year from meetings with the anonymous Esther. He was moved to this after meeting her at dinner, when she was nine. This title is of her thirteenth year wherein readers journey with her to a new school and learn about her experiences. What’s more, we travel beneath the surface, so that we hear the real language spoken at school. What’s more, we gauge her concerns about the forthcoming elections. It seems her father has determined that the family will move to Belgium should Marie Le Pen be elected…
Not only is Esther an authentic voice, but it feels as though we’re permitted to know her more truthfully than the face she presents to the world. It means that we understand her apprehensions about Antoine’s goading of their father. Then again, she makes us laugh with her assertions about boys, her teachers and then wealth, too. At times, it feels as though the creator is a mere cipher. For example, at one point, she explains how she knows what he does in their interviews, and has seen the cartoons and books. However, she’s not particularly engaged by the whole process! Then again, at times, her honesty can be disconcerting. It means that we’re not always sure that we like Esther.
Like Jerry Craft’s Class Act, particularly, this storytelling is raw, contemporary and sympathetic. Bookwagon is proud to recommend Esther’s Notebooks to our older readers.



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