Cast Away on the Letter A: A Philemon Adventure by Fred
first published in France in 1972; published in 2014 by Toon Graphics
Frédéric Othon Aristidès, known as Fred, has been, for decades, one of the most beloved and
Frederic “Fred” Orthon Aristides
influential French cartoonists. His series of sixteen stories starring Philémon were published beginning in the early 70’s and have been gobbled up by millions of French children.
The original story, Philémon et le naufragé du A, has been translated into English by Richard Kutner, so now we anglophones can join the party! Huzzah!
Briefly, it’s about a lanky lad named Philemon from rural France who has a peculiar encounter with a message in a bottle, takes a tumble down a well, and lands in a fantastical world in the Atlantic Ocean. There he meets exploding clocks, an ancient well-digger, splendiferous palaces and shipwrecked sailors — all while he earnestly seeks a way back home.
Fred grew up reading the likes of Dickens and Poe and many elements of his story allude to classic literature and art. The Raft of the Medusa pops up in here, as well as centaurs, unicorns, and Robinson Crusoe’s Man Friday. This edition includes several pages that highlight these elements and explain where they originated.
For the most part, it’s a rip-roaring adventure in an Alice-in-Wonderland, undersea world, and it’s great fun!
The story is about 40 pages long and will appeal to ages 6 and up. Independent readers will need to be about age 9 to interpret both the visual and written story, I’d say. Sophisticated cartoons like this are enjoyable for most of us, but are especially tasty bait for reluctant readers.
Toon is putting out more volumes of Philemon’s adventures. The next one is scheduled to release in May of this year.