‘End?’ This is how artist Brian Elstak concluded his first two children’s books, 'Tori' and 'Trobi'. With a question mark. Because the adventure of the three children Cel, Bones and Zi – armed with a magic tiger’s paw, a pencil sword and a colossus shield – wasn’t over yet. But in *Lobi*, there’s a full stop after the word – the trilogy is complete.

Children's books
Brian Elstak

Elstak began the series for his own children, because there are still so few children’s books with protagonists of colour. What makes this trilogy remarkable is that the content and the look are rooted in hiphop, street art, Marvel comics, films and TV series. Add a dash of Surinamese culture and language – ‘tori’ means ‘story’, ‘trobi’ is ‘problem’ and ‘lobi’ is ‘love’ – and you have a unique and quirky mix that hasn’t been seen in children’s bookshops before.

Like the first books, Lobi is full of strong portraits and dazzling, rough and at times dark images, often clearly based on comics. This book is a true finale, tying up loose ends from the previous stories. For example, we now find out how, in book 1, it was possible for the human children Cel, Bones and Zi to be born from eggs on a tropical island, where they were brought up by Jean-Michel, a giant tortoise. In that one character alone, Elstak alludes both to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and to the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The island is solely inhabited by talking animals, such as a dragon in shower slippers and a motorcycle-riding crocodile. It turns out that this weird and wonderful setting is a different dimension, which exists alongside the world of humankind.

This new adventure begins when Anansi the spider causes Zi to accidentally end up in yet another dimension. Meanwhile Bones and Cel take on Booboolaas, a bogeyman who drives them into the arms of the diabolical Beast.

This exciting story is written in swinging, contemporary language. It reads like an action movie with uncomplicated heroes and villains, while also touching upon themes such as exploitation, following your dreams, courage, prejudices, family ties and feminism, while its most important message is: lobi (love) conquers ogri (evil).

Insanely beautiful drawings. Very important, because children can recognise themselves in these pictures and be proud.

Adriaan van Dis, author
Brian Elstak
Brian Elstak (1980) is a visual artist, illustrator, painter and children's book author.
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