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Review: Pride of Baghdad (Vaughan and Henrichon)

Title: Pride of Baghdad
Author: Brian K. Vaughan and art by Niko Henrichon
Genre: Historical Fiction/graphic novel
Pages: This book does not have page numbers, but it is less than 100
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library
Challenges: Graphic Novel Challenge (#3)
Summary: (from the inside flap): In April of 2003, a pride of starving lions escaped the Baghdad Zoo during the American Invasion of Iraq....

Review: The illustrations in this graphic novel are wonderful; the colors are rich and the images are haunting. Niko Henrichon has done an awesome job conjuring up the images of terrified animals, the bombing of a city, and the chaos that must be involved when a city is attacked. Some of the images are very graphic, depicting war, bloodshed, and animal attacks on one another, but it is all in keeping with the story and does not seem gratuitous in any way.

I remember the story of the escaped lions in Baghdad when we first invaded Iraq in 2003, but only remembered it when I started to read this book. Brian Vaughan tells the story of the invasion and the lions' escape through the words of the animals themselves. This puts the reader directly into the action and one feels as if one is moving with them through the city trying to find shelter and food.

I liked that this book takes a look at the "other side" of war: what is going on beyond the smart bombs and troop maneuvers. Both the author and the artist worked with soldiers and civilians who were in Baghdad at the time to get a sense of the event and what the city and zoo looked like. That definitely shows as the work feels so REAL and so RAW. NPR's Neal Conan did an interesting interview with the author in September 2006 and CNN ran a news story within a few days of the actual incident in April 2003.

What draws you to a graphic novel? Is it the story, the artwork or both?

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