April 22, 2018

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Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt | SLJ Review

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redstarBRITT, Fanny. Louis Undercover. Tr from French by Christelle Morelli & Susan Ouriou. illus. by Isabelle Arsenault. 160p. Groundwood. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781554988594.

Gr 5 Up –From the team behind the touching Jane, the Fox, and Me comes another poignant story of hope amid despair. Following his parents’ split, tweenage Louis is shuttled between his mother’s new apartment in the city and his childhood home in the country, now inhabited by his despondent father. As he travels between these worlds, his memories of happier days are depicted in sketchy gray pencil and hazy turquoise watercolor. Louis’s parents’ heartbreak is nakedly apparent to the boy, who protects his naive little brother, Truffle, from the most tragic elements of their shattered family—mainly their father’s alcoholism. Yet Louis has a secret that sustains him: an infatuation with a bespectacled cyclist named Billie. She glows with lemon yellow optimism as Louis tenderly describes the thrilling panic of simply breathing the same air as Billie. The author relies on sparkling metaphor to portray the protagonist’s love; for instance, Louis compares Billie to a “gorgeous cactus.” Arsenault’s symbolic use of color and animated illustrations breathe life into Britt’s quirky, beautiful story, which emphasizes that love is the bravest act of all. VERDICT This perceptive addition to graphic novel collections will resonate with most readers, especially those coping with similar issues as Louis.–Anna Murphy, Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2017 issue.

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