Vincent Zabus and Hippolyte’s graphic novel Mademoiselle Sophie has been chosen by French-language critics association ACBD for its Prix Jeunesse de la Critique (Critics’ Kids Prize). The award was announced at the 40th BD Boum comics festival in Blois, France on November 18 – with the prize being formally bestowed to the winner on December 2 at the Montreuil Youth Book and Press Fair.

ACBD Kid's Prize
Winner of ACBD Critics’ Kid’s Prize: ‘Mademoiselle Sophie’, by Vincent Zabus and Hippolyte (Darguad)

The book’s full title is Mademoiselle Sophie ou la fable du lion et de l’hippopotame – which can be translated to ‘Ms. Sophie…or the Fable of the Lion and the Hippopotamus’ is published by Dargaud in France. No English language translation has been announced. The story follows a young boy understanding difference through the eyes of his school teacher.

ACBD said about the book [via Google Translate]:

“It’s the story of Romain, 12, who discovers at the start of the school year that his favourite teacher has gained weight. He therefore decides to investigate. Strong and solid bonds will be forged between these two touching and fragile characters. This delicate and poetic story, carried by a marvellous watercolour drawing, has won over the members of the ACBD.”

The book’s full synopsis [via Google Translate]:

“Romain is 12 years old. He has sister who is a university student, and his school teacher is Miss Sophie. Miss Sophie’s weight has earned her the mockery of several students without her seeming to pay any attention. Romain observes his teacher with curiosity and empathy, and senses a uneasiness that he cannot explain with his young adolescent gaze. Romain, however, tries to understand this palpable sadness: is her corpulence a consequence of her feelings, or the opposite? Is she sick? What does her daily life look like? Does she have a partner?… With a boundless imagination, Romain begins this lesson of life and discovers part of the adult world, notably thanks to his big sister. Can we hide suffering or doubts and try, despite everything, to put on a good face?”

It is Zabus third book as writer and second book in partnership with the artist Hippolyte after 2020’s Incroyable! [tr. ‘Amazing!’], also published by Dargaud – about a child with obsessive compulsive disorder and their passion for storytelling.

Other titles that were shortlisted include:

  • Brume [tr. ‘Mist’] vol 1, by Carine Hinder and Jérôme Pélissier (Glénat)
  • Burt rentre à la maison [Burt’s Way Home], by John Martz, French translation by Luba Markovskaia (La Pastèque) — first published in English by Koyama Press in 2016, republished 2022 by Tundra
  • Swamp – Un été dans le bayou [tr. ‘Swamp – A summer in the bayou’], by Johann G. Louis (Dargaud)
  • Voyage de malade [tr. ‘Sick Trip’], by Josephine Mark, French translation (from German) by Paul Derouet (Gallimard BD)

Last year’s ACBD Critics Kids Prize went to Léonie Bischoff’s adaptation of the Kathleen Karr children’s novel The Great Turkey Walk – French title La longue marche des dindes – published by Rue de Sèvres.

The Association des Critiques et Journalistes de Bande Dessinée (or Association of Comics Critics and Journalists) – ACBD – is a French-language collective of those who cover comics in the media (print, online, TV, radio etc). Formed in 1984, it has over a hundred members worldwide, predominantly from France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada. Annually it hands out five critics awards celebrating the medium – including their kids award (Prix Jeunesse), work from French-Canada (Prix Québécoise), translated work from the English-language (Prix Comics), translated work from across Asia (Prix Asie). Its highest honour is the Grand Prix de la Critique (Grand Critics Prize) which is as old as the organisation itself.