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Kanan's book, set in Britain, tells the complex tale of an election
for the mayor of London, a group of traveling gypsies, Max Collins,
who is working in the campaign of one of the candidates to be
mayor, and his fourteen-year-old daughter Natalie Collins, who
is starting to become politically aware.
For the most part, this is a realistic story set in the present
day. The central figure is Natalie, whose fifteenth birthday is
approaching, and she is starting to realize that her father lacks
the qualities she thought he had. As with most of Kanan's characters,
Natalie's face is mostly expressionless; the main way to tell
her feelings is to look at her eyes carefully. She remembers the
promise her father made to her when she was a little girl to build
a tree house, but he sacrifices his promise to his daughter for
his career. Natalie feels betrayed, and she sees how her father
is willing to sacrifice principles for power. Soon she is siding
with the gypsies and their protests about their treatment by local
There's a mystical element to the story, concerning the ancestral
land of the gypsies where they belong, that provides a twist in
the plot making it more than a banal tale of a girl's disillusionment
in her father. But that part of the story is not really central;
the heart of the story is about the girl's growth, and her father's
disappointment in himself and his knowledge that his daughter
Although The Birthday Riots is more complex than his book
The Lost Girl,
Kanan's previous publication with NBM Publishing, ultimately the
story is disappointing. It's no great revelation that people in
politics sacrifice their principles, and Kanan's characters are
not very interesting. I suspect that he needs to find a different
kind of story better matched to his artwork; it may be that focusing
on the world of children and teens works best with his style.
The drawing is heavier and more detailed here than it was in The
Lost Girl, but it still does not seem to be best suited to
social commentary. Kanan's ability to convey the subtlety of facial
expressions, especially uncertainty, curiosity and questioning,
works very well with young characters; he conveys sensuality in
his simple line drawing. I look forward to Kanan's forthcoming
work, and hope that he will find a story that better suits his
© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks
on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.
NBM Publishing Web Site, and listing for The Birthday Riots.
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