The Professor’s Daughter (:01 First Second Books)

prof-headerVictorian London comes alive in this delightful, richly-illustrated tale of a love affair between a beautiful young woman and a 3,000-year old mummy.

 

 

80 pgs. FC; $16.95

(W: Joann Sfar; A: Emmanuel Guibert; Translated by Alexis Siegel)

 

A short but very sweet book, The Professor's Daughter takes readers on a madcap adventure through Victorian England full of murder, mayhem, and mummies. Originally published to critical acclaim in France in 1997 as La Fille du Professeur, the story was the first collaboration between Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert. American readers may be familiar with the duo's all-ages Sardine In Space series.

 

The cover to The Professor's Daughter. Click thumbnail for a larger image.In The Professor's Daughter, title character Lillian takes her father's prized mummy out of his sarcophagus and onto the streets of London. They fall in love, as both feel they've found a soulmate. Lillian finds someone who feels as stifled and confined as she does, and Imhotep IV-the mummy-finds that she bears quite a resemblance to his dead wife. But as with any love affair, there are obstacles to overcome; in this case kidnapping, accidental homicide, and both their overbearing fathers.

 

The story is surprisingly satisfying for such a short book. Sfar has a great sense of pacing and doesn't make any attempt to explain how a three-thousand-year-old mummy is suddenly up and about. This may frustrate some readers, but it's really to the benefit of the story; why he's alive isn't the point, and trying to explain the magic would get in the way of the fast-paced fun here.

 

Sfar's characters are likable and clever, and casual scholars of Ancient Egypt will love the way mummies are thrown into a Victorian setting. We're introduced to Imhotep IV as Lillian drags him out the door for a romantic stroll. Clad in a top hat and tails, he protests, "I know this may seem peculiar for a Pharaoh… but I'm not all that fond of the sun." The dialogue throughout is very quick and funny.

 

The real star of the book, though, is the gorgeously painted art by Emmanuel Guibert. Each character is lovingly brought to believable life, and even the characters covered head-to-toe in bandages seem to have readable facial expressions. The coloring is very well done, setting the tone for each scene and aiding quick transitions in mood. It's surprising that in later work with this creative team, Guibert takes the role of writer rather than artist; his work is simply exceptional.

 

The Professor's Daughter is a delightful book for readers looking for high adventure with a sense of humor. It also has a good deal of potential for younger readers (as long as they can handle a bit of violence and have a well-developed vocabulary). It's a quick read, but one that can be returned to again and again like a favorite old film. | Elizabeth Bolhafner

 

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