Review of K Is in Trouble

K Is in Trouble K Is in Trouble
by Gary Clement; illus. by the author
Intermediate    LB Ink/Little, Brown    224 pp.
1/24    9780316468527    $24.99
Paper ed.  9780316468602    $13.99
e-book ed.  9780316468633    $9.99

K is a bourgeois school boy in what appears to be late-nineteenth-century Bohemia. He is frail, anxious, and lonely, isolated at home, withdrawn at school. In each of five graphic short stories, Clement presents a situation of powerlessness, oppression, or ennui in which K encounters a small moment of grace. An errand to buy a carp turns into a nightmare of chaos and alienation, but when K finally makes it back home, pursued by angry townspeople, his mother stands up for him. Faced with the cruel, absurdist bureaucracy of his school, K is comforted by a helpful beetle who advises him to write about it all one day. Based loosely on the life and work of Franz Kafka, this volume makes adept use of the graphic format, as everything from the pace of the panels to the size of the type effectively conveys the feeling of being small, quiet, and timid in a world that can be giant, loud, and aggressive. This isn’t parody, pastiche, or melodrama but rather a sympathetic and respectful portrait of the condition of being a child, a condition as familiar now as then. Pair with Theule’s Kafka and the Doll for an introduction to a sad boy who became one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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