When I saw the cover of The Rabbi’s Cat, a graphic novel by Joann Sfar, I smiled. The curly haired girl holding a cat could well have been me. My husband must have seen the similarities between the girl and me as well, because I got the book as a birthday gift from him. Delighted, I sat down to read the story of this cat and his wild-haired human.
The Rabbi’s Cat is the story of a Rabbi in Algeria, his daughter and his talking cat. Does the cat rule the lives of the Rabbi and his daughter? He pretty much does. Joann Sfar’s art is deceptively simple, looks like scribbles and squiggles and tells a story as much in pictures as it does in words. You will love this cat who is possessive of Zlabya, the Rabbi’s daughter, is the true philosopher of the three and drives to despair the Rabbi who just cannot tell when the cat is telling him a lie.
After reading the Rabbi’s Cat, I read Vampire Loves , also by Joann Sfar. With so much vampire fiction filling bookshelves, I wondered if this would be different. I just could not bear another story of a vampire that glittered in the sunshine. So it was a very pleasant change to be introduced to Ferdinand, the vampire who does not like to drink human blood. He bites humans just with one tooth, so as to make the bite mark look like a mosquito bite. He tries hard to make sense of the world from an undead point of view. Ferdinand is a lovable, clumsy vampire with none of the charm and charisma a vampire is supposed to have. Yet he is adorable and with those large sad eyes all the reader wants is that he succeeds in his attempts at anything: relationships, conversations, arguments and even taking a stand.
Joann Sfar’s other books are charming too. Sardine in Outer Space, written in collaboration with Emmanuel Guibert, tells the story of Sardine and her adventures in outer space. Travelling aboard the Huckelberry with her pirate uncle and cousin little Louie, she takes on space creatures including the evil Supermuscleman and Doc Kroc. Once again, it is the art that makes you want to read the story again and again. The Professor’s Daughter and Klezmer are two of his books that have been translated into English and I hope that soon all of his books will be.
Those of you who know enough French can have a look at the author’s website ‘Le petit monde de Joann Sfar’.
I do not know enough French to understand what he is writing about, but I do use online translating tools because I think that Sfar is an excellent story teller, satirist and philosopher.
There is an English version of the website available, but for me the challenge lies in looking up sentences and phrases in French, seeing similarities with English and then truly appreciating the translation. Do any of you have a story that you want to tell both in pictures and words? Just get started. Yours might be the story everyone wants to read.
(Yasmine Claire teaches high school students and attempts to write twisted-inside-out fairy tales. Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org)