Illegal is the story of Ebo, a young boy from Ghana who journeys across Africa to Tripoli where he hopes to migrate to Europe and reunite with his older sister Sisi and his older brother Kwame who have already left home. This 122 page graphic novel by was written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin with the images drawn by Giovanni Rigano.
A small cast of characters make this book an easy, yet dramatic read for students learning about immigration and Africa. Ebo, Kwame, Sisa, Uncle Patrick, Rozak, Penn, and Cammo.
The reader quickly learns that the life of a migrant is a dangerous routine of work, hide, and sleep in order to get up and avoid detection the next day. Human traffickers abound and pop up frequently to separate migrants from their hard-earned money.
Ebo’s gift for song carries him to the city of Agadez where an impromptu gig at a wedding helps him get to Europe. There are many opportunities for teachers to help students learn about African countries, the legacies of imperialism, and the sad history of decolonization. Students can create empathy maps, timelines, and map the refugees’ journey, as well as engage in inquiry projects about refugees in and out of the United States.
The opening quote from Eli Wiesel reminds us all that humanity depends on humans caring for each other. Isn’t that what the study of history is for?