Book Review: Marcus and the Amazons

By Dr. Andrea Shaw @ Jamaicans. com

The story’s hero is Marcus, a courageous young Formica ant who has returned to his homeland to take a stand against the oppressive Amazon ants, who have enslaved his family and friends and abducted Amy, his beloved bride to be. Relying on new ideas he’s encountered while away as well as the power of community organizing, Marcus mounts a resistance to the Amazons.

The story makes obvious allusions to real life dissidents in various black nationalist and civil rights movements during the twentieth century. The main character’s name evokes Jamaican national hero Marcus Garvey, and the circumstances of the character Marcus’ enslavement suggests any number of (post)colonial moments of disenfranchisement and brutality. Yet Philp manages to shape a story that engages the imagination of both the young and young at heart.

For example, Marcus and the Amazons is peopled by an array of anthropomorphic characters, mainly ants portrayed with human characteristics, but also other creatures such as fireflies and spiders. The story features betrayal; a villainous contingency of Amazon ants, including the queen and her general; and the rescue of the fair maiden in distress. These characteristics make it easy to immediately dive into Marcus and the Amazons because of the familiar fictional territory in which the story is set. However, Philp manages to negotiate an effective conversation with an important and often ignored topic in children’s literature, enslavement and colonization, because of the painful history in which those occurrences are rooted.

Philp’s new book does an excellent job of providing a literary venue for children to learn a little about the oppression endemic to the postcolonial experience while holding their breath to see what happens next and being entertained. Furthermore, the images are a delightful characteristic of Philp’s book. Illustrated by Patrick Pollack, a young artist and family friend of Philp’s, Marcus and the Amazons boasts beautifully drawn images with vivid colors and memorably rendered characters.

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