The design of most of the pages in this book is based a grid of six similarly sized frames (three rows of two) with text contained in speech or thought balloons. Before coming across Aya’s stories I found this format difficult to read. I preferred graphic novels that broke away from this design simply because I found them less densely packed and easier to follow.
Then I discovered one of the Aya books in my local library and was immediately hooked into her world – the characterization and the storytelling is so warm, so strong and so funny it just pulls you along. Something clicked in my head and I’ve never had problems with the gridded format again. I tell you this because I have heard other people talk of the same kind of difficulty and I suggest that, if this applies to you, that you persevere as I did because it will open up a world of wonderful stories for you. I was so completely won over by the first Aya story I read that, when I found my library did not have any of the other books in the series in stock, I immediately bought The Secrets Come Out so as to have another of her stories to read. Besides, sometimes I just need to own lovely things, you know how it is.
Aya’s stories are a wonderful celebration of Ivorian culture. The writer, Marguerite Abouet, was born in Abidjan and moved from Ivory Coast to Paris when she was twelve. Aya’s stories are set in an Ivorian village. They feature many wonderful characters, all highly individual and with their own take on things. Life is not always easy for Aya and has many complications but you can see from the cover of The Secrets Come Out that she is full of spirit, humour and intelligence.
Clément Oubrerie’s pictures capture Marguerite Abouet’s words perfectly. It is a magical creative partnership. Wikipedia claims that they are married and I would like to think that this is true though I haven’t read it elsewhere. Certainly, judging by his drawings, Clément seems to have a great understanding and affection for Ivorian culture and its people. I recommend a visit to his blog to see more of Aya and his other artwork.