Louis Undercover

Louis Undercover, Britt, Fanny and Arsenault, Isabelle, tr. by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou, Groundwood Books, Toronto, Ont., 2017.

louis undercover


- Booklist Starred Review

Britt and Arsenault follow up their award-winning Jane, the Fox and Me (2013) with this moving, gorgeously illustrated story of a boy seeking courage and trying to understand the complicated dynamics between his anxious mother and alcoholic father. Louis and his brother, Truffle, spend a few weeks at a time with their father in his rural cabin, which is fun until Dad starts to drink wine and cry. Back at home with his mom, Louis crushes hard on a girl in his class, but he can’t muster up the bravery to say even one word to her. For Louis, the combination of a constantly worried mother and regularly weeping father makes him believe he lacks any courage at all, but during a revealing summer in which Louis and Truffle adopt an injured raccoon and his parents seem to resolve some of their strife, he finds other ways to be brave. While the complex emotional undercurrents are subtle, Arsenault’s soft, textured pencil- and watercolour illustrations help bring them to the surface. Billowy petals of pale yellow and blue signal Louis’s mood; heavy black pencil scratches suggest fear or anxiety; and the fine-lined faces brim with meaningful expression. This nuanced tale of an observant, sensitive boy finding his own brand of strength is bittersweet and beautifully composed. — Sarah Hunter

- School Library Journal Starred Review

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.

© Susan Ouriou 2012 All Rights Reserved                                                      ouriou@telus.net