Summary and Review: “Cast Away on the Letter A”

Cast away

Cast Away on the Letter A: A Philemon Adventure
by Fred (Frédéric Othon Aristidès)
translated by Richard Kutner

Hardcover, 48 pages
September 9, 2014 release
TOON Books (first published January 1st 1972)
ISBN: 978-1-935179-63-4
$16.95

Reading Level:  Grades 3-6 (age 8-12)

A tlanticPhilemon falls down the well on his family’s farm. He lands in a fantasy world; on an island shaped like the letter A. He is on the first letter of the “Atlantic” ocean, as drawn on maps and atlases! Because it’s a place that doesn’t exist, his adventures and the characters he meets are fantastical and nonsensical.

Awards
2013 Hemingway Translation Grant by the Book Department of the French Embassy in the U.S.
YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens 2015, Fiction


Educational Connections:
TOON Books are created with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in mind, and are supported by teachers’ guides that they create for each of their titles. Cast Away on the Letter A Guide addresses state standards for grades 4th and 5th (though they are clear that the book is appropriate for grades 3+. The list of CCSS Literacy standards is on page 2, and addresses literature, informational text, speaking and listening, and writing skills.

Also, the back pages (click sample images below, for larger views) of the book contain informational pages with tips for parents, teachers, and librarians, and the glossary & index page provides useful references to historical, artistic (Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa”), mythological/literary allusions contained in the comic, enriching the story that much more, and providing ideas for further exploration and reading.


Read-Alikes for adventure/fantasy similar to Cast Away on the Letter A:
There are 2 more books in the Philemon Adventure series (16 in all, but 2 are translated and published in English).

 

Classic read-alikes that have similar fantasy/journey themes are Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. You can even see a little of Dr. Seuss’ absurdity and style.

panels

Appeal to audience: The author, Fred, wrote and published these comics in France in 1972. They have a dreamlike 70’s color scheme and European pop style to them, so they look unlike anything else being published today in the U.S. That is not to say they look old – they are vibrant, adventurous, and interesting urging the reader to leap forward to each new panel. He is skilled at visual storytelling, and the text is playful, while clarifying (if you can call it clarification!), but there is so much action in the illustrations, in which kids can immerse themselves. As a grade-school kid fascinated by art and literature, and thrilled by learning about allusions, I would have devoured these books, and followed all of the connections they contain.


References

Cast Away on the Letter A: A Philemon Adventure | TOON Graphics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 09, 2017, from http://www.toon-books.com/cast-away-on-the-letter-a-a-philemon-adventure.html

Chao, H., & Steinberg, S. (2015). Cast Away on the Letter A CCSS-aligned Lesson Plan & Teacher’s Guide. Retrieved from http://www.toon-books.com/uploads/1/2/5/6/12564774/cc.fred.combined_1.pdf

Ito, R. (2014, August 29). Françoise Mouly’s Toon Graphics Takes Comics to Classrooms. The New York Times Retrieved May 09, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/30/books/francoise-moulys-toon-graphics-takes-comics-to-classrooms.html?_r=2

 

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