Lotus Root Children is the first graphic novel from Wei Li.  The story is about a poor lotus root farmer called Ah Lan who is part of a child trafficking ring in China.  Ah Lan’s role in the child trafficking ring is to “deprogram” kidnapped children into thinking their previous family was a dream.  She uses the Chinese legend of Ne Zha to prepare them for a life with a new family.

Lotus Root Children

What I like about Lotus Root Children is that there are no real heroes in it.  There are just victims and villains.  There is a lot of poverty in the Chinese country side.  Ah Lan supplements her income by working for the child traffickers.  However, each child she deprograms takes an emotional toll on her.  The story ends in a way that I think is consistent within the world this story takes place in.  However, I also think it is realistic and very conceivable in today’s China.

The art is very good.  I like the choice to do this story in black and white with many different shades of gray.  It sets an appropriate visual tone for this type of story.

Lotus Root Children can be found online in its entirety here.  Why would you buy a copy of this graphic novel?  You buy it for the extra material in the book that is not available online.

I talked to Wei Li when he was at TCAF this year.  He received a grant from the Xeric Foundation in 2010.  He said that the Xeric grant was enough for him to take a month to work exclusively on getting his comic printed.  He spent some time looking for the right paper to print his comic on.  He redrew some pages from his comic he was not happy with.  He drew new title pages for each chapter.  He cleaned up some dialog.  At the back of the book, there are some early sketches of the characters with some commentary from Wei.

Lotus Root Children is 68 pages long and can be purchased for $10.00 (Cdn) at the Epidigm Studios online store.

On a side note, Lotus Root Children illustrates how important the Xeric Foundation is to self-publishing comic creators.  Unfortunately, the Xeric grants to comic creators will be ending.  Click here for the full details from Peter Laird.  The last grants will be handed out in May, 2012.