Monday, February 8, 2010

46. The Tale of One Bad Rat

Talbot, Bryan. The Tale of One Bad Rat. ISBN: 1-56971-077-5. Dark Horse Comics Inc. First trade paperback edition, 1995.

Plot Summary
Helen is a teenage runaway who is running from the sexual abuse and neglect she received from her father and mother. She hates herself because of how she has been treated and with nobody to turn to she becomes lost in her only fond memories growing up. These fond memories come from reading the tales of Beatrix Potter and drawing her storybook characters. Helen begins her journey with her pet rat to Hill Top where Beatrix Potter wrote the stories she cherishes. Along the way she faces more heartache but in doing so she finds the strength she needs to confront her father and move on with her life.

Critical Evaluation

Bryan Talbot's The Tale of One Bad Rat is one of the most important works of graphic fiction today because of the complex issues that it deals with. It is one of the first comics to deal with incest, molestation, and emotional abuse from the victim's point of view. Talbot set out to create a piece of fiction that felt real, and that depicted the English Lake District. Somewhere along the way he found his story in the same setting that inspired the wonderful tales of Beatrix Potter. Talbot intertwines the life of Beatrix with Helen's in a way that they are one in the same; two separate young woman both escaping hardship in pursuit of the clarity and freedom of the countryside.

Beatrix's story inspires Helen to escape her dangerous living situation in order to discover how to live after abuse. The journey is hard and Helen is homeless most of the time with her only friend, a pet rat. When she finally learns to trust again an older couple helps her get on her feet. She researches how to deal with the complex feelings she has after her 8 years of abuse, and gains the strength and courage to stand up to her abuser.

I can't stress the importance of a book like this for young children who have had to experience sexual abuse. Talbot did his research to make the novel as real as possible. He lists phone numbers for people experiencing abuse to call in order to help deal with their problems and his novel has been incorporated as a resource for child abuse centers in both the United Kingdom and United States.

Reader's Annotation
Helen is a teenage runaway with a history of sexual abuse from her father. Seeking safety, she turns to the only place she feels at home; the scenes from her favorite storybooks.

Author Information
Bryan Talbot is a comic book legend who is credited for bring one of the creators of the graphic novel format. His first illustrations were published in 1969, and he has continued to work both on indie and mainstream publications ever since. In 2000, he received the Inkpot Award for outstanding achievement in Comic Arts. Talbout's work on the graphic novel Tale of One Bad Rat earned him the prestigious Eisner Award in 1996. Talbout is currently working on the British comic book series Grandville, which follows a Badger detective as he uncovers the facts around a political killing in Paris.

For more info check out:

graphic novel, realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties

child Abuse, Life of Beatrix Potter, comics as literature

Book Talking Ideas

Why does Helen occupy herself with the art of Beatrix Potter?
Discuss the symbolism that rats have in different cultures.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9+

Challenge Issues

incest, violence, sex, language

Challenge defense ideas:

1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection
I have always been a fan of comic books and graphic novels, but like most avid comic readers, the majority of materials I read involve superheros. I wanted to use this blog assignment to explore the other genres of graphic fiction that exist and I have been pleasantly surprised by the range of genres, publishers, and authors working in more realistic graphic fiction.

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