Enlighten Me (A Graphic Novel)

Little, Brown Ink. Sept. 2023. 144p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780759555488.
Gr 6-8–Lê’s latest graphic novel gives readers an engaging introduction to meditation and Buddhism. Bình and his family are going to a silent meditation retreat, which he and his sisters are not happy about. He doesn’t want to give up his Game Boy and one sister wonders why she can’t just go to a “regular” summer camp. Bình has trouble settling in at the retreat and is uncomfortable sitting cross-legged, trying to meditate. Instead of clearing his mind, he reminisces about an incident from school that he hasn’t been able to talk to his family about, imagining it as if it were a video game. His schoolmates had been harassing him for being Vietnamese and he fought back, but instead of being congratulated for beating the Level One bullies, he was punished. Game over. But after the first abysmal day, the children are taken to a separate room where they are taught stories about the roots and tenets of Buddhism. They learn about obstacles Buddha faced and overcame on the path to enlightenment, and Bình is able to see himself in the stories by picturing them as video game levels. He understands the lessons more deeply and sees how they apply to his life and how he can open up to his family.
VERDICT Told through colorful, expressive art and video game-influenced storytelling, this graphic novel explores the value of friendship and the importance of community. Regardless of the reader’s beliefs, concepts discussed here will be meaningful.

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