A historical fiction graphic novel starting in Shanghai 1937, The Ballad of Yaya is a nine volume story of a young girl who meets a young boy and, together, a story of the odds these two children must face in a world at war.
Published: 23 April 2019
Publisher: Lion Forge
Category: Graphic Novel/Historical Fiction
Shanghai, November 1937.
Yaya, the eight-year-old daughter of a diamond merchant, lives a life of luxury in the French Concession in Shanghai. Her one great passion is the piano. While she is preparing for an important audition, her father decides that the family must leave town in the face of the imminent Japanese invasion.
The evening before all the family is to leave, stubborn Yaya, unaware of the danger, runs away in an attempt to make it to her audition come what may. On the way, in the midst of the crowd fleeing the Japanese offensive, she is caught in a bombardment. She owes her life to Tuduo, a street urchin who discovers her unconscious in the ruins of a house.
Rating: 4 Stars
This historical fiction graphic novel tells the story of two children, Yaya and Tuduo, from wildly different backgrounds who are facing the onset of WWII. When war comes to Shanghai and Yaya is separated from her family due to an ill-fated trip away from them of her own machination, it is Tuduo who comes to her aid.
Fugue is the first volume in a nine-volume series, so it takes the time to introduce the cast. Yaya is a pampered child, the eldest and beloved her her wealthy father and mother. She will soon have a younger brother, but this joyous event is overshadowed by the war that is coming to Shanghai. Not even her father’s wealth can protect them, but this is not something that Yaya understands as the threat that it is, being as young as she is. All she knows is that something so vital to her person, an important piano audition, is no longer possible because the family needs to flee. It it this that causes her to runaway and attempt to get to the audition on her own, ultimately leading to her meeting with Tuduo.
The reader will have a greater understanding of the events surrounding Yaya’s situation, not only because of potential knowledge of history, but because of the artwork, showing a city preparing for war, people preparing cars & other vehicles with their worldly possessions in order to leave before the Japanese arrive. The level of detail the author went to, conveying not only Yaya’s feelings in the narrative but the feeling of anxiety, worry, and horror of those around her, filled the book with many levels, interconnected stories that may not have seemed important to Yaya but were more prevalent than she realized.
Then, too, there is Tuduo, counterpart to Yaya. He is a street urchin under the thumb of Zhu, who uses lackeys and threats against Tuduo’s younger brother to make sure Tuduo uses his skills as an acrobat to bring in money every day. One day, in order to protect his brother from Zhu’s dangerous clutches, Tuduo runs away, entrusting his brother to a nun he’s befriended and fleeing the city himself, knowing Zhu will be on his heels. This is, of course and unfortunately, the day the Japanese arrive and the day Yaya runs away to her audition.
What these two children face as the city is being bombed is unimaginable. There’s no blood, but the buildings coming down around them, the utter destruction, conveys so much that I think it was a good choice by the artist. Not only for the audience that will be reading this, but because there are many ways to convey the depths of sadness and terror of the situation and Tuduo and Yaya suddenly being alone in a war-torn city….it was poignant.
I’m looking forward to seeing where the next volume picks up because the cliffhanger prompts the reader to want to know more, to need to know how how Tuduo and Yaya will fare when they are still so small in the face of such a wide world that is at war. Will Tuduo’s street knowledge be enough? Will Yaya’s determined spirit see her back to her family?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.
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