Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault


         Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, translated by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ouriou. Groundwood, 2017. 9781554988594

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  “My dad cries.” is the first line in this affecting graphic novel. Louis, an adolescent, and his doe-eyed little brother, Truffle, shuttle between their estranged parents, their mother always worried, their father always drinking and/or crying. Louis talks about his parents to the reader, sings classic rock-n-roll songs with his brother, and dreams of talking to the beautiful Billie.  Children often understand more about their parents than their parents give them credit for, and this book shows a child’s “undercover” observations of his parents’ fears, joys and challenges. Humor and sadness in a realistic setting reveal that there are no easy answers. Pencil and ink illustrations channel the bleakness of the situation, in black and white with occasional splashes of color. These bits of gorgeous color show the deeply held optimism of the narrator, and remind the reader of the passing of time, in the beautiful depictions of natural phenomena in color. This author/illustrator/translator team is the same one who brought us Jane, the Fox, and Me.

To whom would you recommend this book? I would recommend this to older elementary school kids who may be going through hard times at home, and to any who like thoughtful depictions of domestic strife, especially of alcoholism. It reminds me of Holt’s Dear Hank Williams and Tolstikova’s A Year Without Mom.

Who should buy this book? Middle school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Graphic novels

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: July 13, 2017

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