“ Author: Charlie Higson / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 02 October 2008 / Genre: Children's Comic Strips & Graphic Novels / Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd / Title: SilverFin: The Graphic Novel / ISBN 13: 9780141322537 / ISBN 10: 0141322537 „
* Prices may differ from that shown
My six year old son has recently finished reading Silverfin, in the regular paperback form. I was extremely surprised to see a child so young so enthralled by spy thriller, even if it a young adult version. Although he loved the book - in fact he has talked about little else other than James Bond, spies and secret agents since, I thought he might enjoy a copy with pictures even more.
My hopes were not too high for this book. At 160 pages, less than half that of the paperback, and being made up, in large part of pictures, I assumed a great deal of the story would have to be sacrificed. I was wrong. While a single picture may not paint 1,000 words, the whole of the pictures in this book effortlessly replaces quite a bit of the text without any loss of story line. For instance, in the regular book, there is a fairly in depth description of Jame's new friend Red Kelly. This book doesn't even mention that he is Irish, much less his broad smiling face and ginger hair - but one picture says it all. By the way - Red Kelly is a terrible stereotype - ginger hair, huge lugs, large family, likes a drink, a real fighter who is no stranger to theft, but at the same time has the gift of the gab and could charm a snake. He may be a most terrible stereotype, but you just have to like him!
Having read both this and the original paperback, I have found the storyline identical. There really is nothing lost in the transfer to a graphic format. I do have a slight preference for the unillustrated version, simply because I like to let my imagination fill in the details, and I read too fast as it is. A good paperback rationed out can last me a few days - and I do have to limit myself so as not to finish it one night. This on the other could be used up in hour, although it took my son a full day to read it. It is still very much a book I could enjoy though.
My son on the other hand loves this book. He immediately asked for Bloodfever in this format, and seeing the joy this has brought I decided to buy it. Unfortunately this is the only young James Bond book available as a graphic novel. More's the pity. These are the type of books that would make any boy into avid readers! I honestly think the decline in comic books has been matched by a decline in literacy. Many studies have shown that children who enjoyed comics were more likely to become fluent readers. More recent studies show how much more students understand and enjoy the classics in graphic form, and even the bible is now available in comic strip style.
As I have recently the paperback version of this book, I do not want to repeat myself too much so will give a very brief plot summary: Something terrible is going on at Lake Silverfin, behind the heavily guarded fences. An unimaginable terror as a crazed arms salesman and a mad scientist team up to create an aberration of nature. When a young boy sneaks under the fences for a chance to fish in this secret lake, an chain of events is set off which include Bond, and deeply affect the man he will become.
After a brief epilogue, in which a child disappears in the murky waters of Lake Silverfin, this book begins as James Bond starts his first term at Eton. The graphic version has no need for in depth descriptions of Bond's room etc and seems to jump into the action of the story much more quickly. This is of course ideal for young readers. The artwork is excellent. It is primarily in darkened hues, but these suit the mood of the story quite well. The characters faces often reflect extremes in emotion, perhaps more extreme than one would expect in real life, but this seems to be the style of graphic novels, where a face can be read as easily as text.
I did find most of the characters a bit stereotypical. The real villains look like bullies, Jame's aunt and uncle look kindly, and of course the girl ( who features only briefly) is beautiful. There is of course a girl, Bond always meets a girl, and she is always beautiful. but although she plays a brief role in this book, she is also strong, independent and teaches James a thing or two!
But stereotypes aside, the author has created characters that spring to life on these pages, as if they are real people. The struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, and the presence of heroes is something most experts recognise children actually need in stories. These books give boys someone to look up to - to aspire to be like - and be honest here - how many grown men wouldn't like to be James Bond at times. But beneath the action and violence, there is real morality in this book. There is also something of why some people do bad things and something of redemption as well, but of course the main "baddies" are evil through and through.
My only disappointment in this book is that there are no sequels. I would have loved to have bought all of Charlie Higson's books in this format. I honestly think publishers, parents and educators need to seriously look at the fact that many boys simply are not excited by the books usually offered them. I think they need to sit down with boys and ask them what they want in a book. I have done just that with my son, and this book is exactly what he wants, but of there are no more available. I have purchased 2 Alex Rider books in graphic format for Christmas for him, so here's hoping they are enjoyed, but I somehow doubt any books are going to be able to match this one.