Alanguilan, Gerry. Elmer: A Comic Book. Slave Labor. 2010. c.144p. ISBN 9781593622046. pap. $12.95. f
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he could. After chickens became intelligent from a freak virus, civil unrest among men and fowl reigned for far too long. But finally the birds were internationally declared fellow humans. Elmer was one of the pioneers who lived through the awakening. Dying, he bequeaths his diary to disaffected son Jake, who reads with growing fascination his father’s story. As Jake struggles through understanding while sorting out interfamily tensions—with his grieving mother, nurse sister, and Hollywood star brother—he vows to publish Elmer’s diary as a tribute to those who struggled toward freedom before his hatching. Not funny, Alanguilan’s realistic, highly skilled black-and-white drawings suck you into this feather-clad race relations parable despite the internal dissonance it sets up. You want to find those chickens funny. But you can’t—think Orwell’s Animal Farm.
VERDICT Originally self-published in the Philippines, where Alanguilan lives, this unusual and affecting story is bound to evoke what-if discussions. Strongly recommended for teens and up in classrooms as well as libraries. Violence, strong language, and occasional sexual references and nudity.—M.C.