Original title: A
Genre: children´s book
Petrkov 2016, 2018
ISBN: 978-80-875-9557-2, 978-80-875-9567-1
The White Ravens 2017, Golden Ribbon Award for Best Comics for Children and Young Adults 2017, Fabula Rasa 2016 – Best Czech Comics
Italian (Publistampa, 2017), German (Alibri Verlag, 2019), Danish (Forlaget Torgard, 2021), Polish (Timof, 2021)
A timeless parable about oppression
Pavel Čech’s latest prize-winning comic book comes as something of a surprise after his previous work. The wordless story adopts a grim Orwellian tone and warns against all forms of totalitarianism. This is embodied by the ever-present letter A, which is the only letter permitted. Although there are generally just six panels to a page, upon repeated viewing we discover a wealth of detail related to the impact of autocracy: depersonalized factory machinery, a beret with a number on it, food rationing, dull school lessons and mass demonstrations in favour of the hysterically revered letter... One day, the inquisitive main character with the numbered beret spots a paper airplane with the letter B on it, for which an old man from the neighbourhood has been punished. Thanks to his desire to fly, he manages to reach a land full of colour and letters on a converted bicycle and decides to symbolically describe his experiences to others by going all the way from A to Z.
From the White Ravens annotation:
A young man lives under the dictatorship of “A”: Everyone says, thinks and feels “A” – or is at least expected to. There are buildings in “A” form, and newspapers write articles exclusively using the letter “A”. One day the man finds a forbidden flyer with the message: “B”. New ideas germinate in him: other thoughts, beliefs, and ways of life are possible! In an extraordinary effort, the young man floods the dictatorship with books and texts containing all the letters of the alphabet. “A” is a fabulous comic by Czech illustrator Pavel Čech. With narrative acumen, Čech not only captures life in an oppressive system, but also shows how it is possible to resist and overthrow it. Aside from the symbolic letters “A” and “B”, which stand in for messages, information, and censorship, Čech’s book is textless – making it even more extraordinary and gripping in its expressive power.
Reader age: 10+
“This engaging book has more to tell school-age readers about the essence of totalitarian regimes than any textbook or lecture by a well-meaning survivor of the times.
Pavel Čech’s drawings maintain a consistently high standard, with frequent changes of rhythm to accommodate full-page and two-page illustrations.
This book demands to be read repeatedly. On the first, rapid read-through, we are carried along by the thrilling story; only on subsequent readings do we become aware of secondary plotlines and symbols, and the aptness and sensitivity with which Čech characterizes life in the black-and-white city, albeit with humour and a lightness of touch. What’s more, the book is more than its pages: the visual puns spill over on to the cover and flyleaf.
A must for parents and teachers. Thanks to its immediate, memorable graphics, the children in their care will soon reach an understanding of the meaning and price of freedom.”
Pavel Mandys, Iliteratura