Louis Undercover

Who knew books aimed at kids were so heavy?  

I don’t just mean they weigh a lot. Although, surprisingly, they do. Do publishers think kids are super humans who can support the weight of large books on their laps for long periods? I had actual dents in my legs from having Louis Undercover sit in my lap while reading it.

What I really mean is: the subject matter is super intense. Fanny Britt’s book (illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault) is narrated by a boy named Louis who lives with his mother and his brother Truffle. Except when they live with their dad, who is an alcoholic. Their dad is unbearably sad. Their father’s sadness makes their mother sad, and Louis too. Truffle, the baby of the family, maintains his good cheer because he doesn’t fully understand what is going on.

Seriously, I do not recall ever reading any sort of books at all about alcoholic parents as a pre teen, or even as an actual teen. That, or it wasn’t as traumatic as I’m imagining it to be now and I’ve completely forgotten. Anyway.

Britt sprinkles hope throughout the story. The boys rescue a racoon, the most seriously adorably illustrated cartoon racoon I’ve ever seen. I desperately want to snuggle said racoon. The family takes a trip to New York and “The big city swallows us up for four golden, milkshake-filled days.”

Arsenault’s illustrations are melancholy and gorgeous and spotting details in them is like getting an unexpected reward.

Britt’s writing is just as beautiful: “… I hear, like a chorus, like a spoonful of maple syrup, my mom’s laugh.”

You can taste summer. And it’s a bittersweet, delicate flavour.

Fanny Britt was at Events 45 (Frame by Frame), 59 (Writing Canada 1) and 66 (Portrait of a Marriage) of the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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