Rabagliati, Michel. Paul Joins the Scouts.

Greenwich, NS: Conundrum Press, 2013.

I’ve read a couple of the author’s earlier slice-of-life and semi-autobiographical graphic novels about Paul which were written a decade or so ago, but those were set in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, when the protagonist was an adult trying to make his way in the professional art world. This one is also very nice but it takes place when Paul is only about eleven, so the author seems to be moving backward. Or something.

The setting is Montreal during the time when the FLQ was shifting from street protests into violent terrorism, but Paul is concerned only with trying to learn to draw comics, trying to learn to play guitar, and trying to learn about girls (especially Helene, who appears to be pursuing him, and with whom he shares their mutual first kiss). Paul has an older sister (the sarcastic bane of his life) and a number of friends, but he’s largely a loner. Then he discovers the Cub Scout Pack at the local church (you had to be Catholic to be a Cub in Quebec in those days) and jumps in with both feet, taking part in the sing-alongs and the games, learning how to be alone in the woods at night during Winter Camp, and generally having a whole lot of fun. The three scoutmasters (one of them apparently a priest) are nicely done, too, with their own concerns when the kids aren’t around — especially Daniel, younger than the others and an avid photographer, whose political connections become suspect when the government cracks down on the separatists.

That’s pretty much the plot, just mostly ordinary everyday events and their effect on completely believable everyday people. Until the ending. Which comes shockingly out of left field and will leave you gasping and slightly stunned. This series has won the author/artist a number of awards, all of them fully justified.

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