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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Loula is leaving for Africa, written and illustrated by Anne Villeneuve. Kids Can Press, 2013. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"Loula is going far away,
very far away, the farthest
away she can get from those
TERRIBLE triplets.

"Mama," says Loula, "I am
going to Africa."
"Wonderful," sings her mother
while practicing her role for
the opera. "Just don't catch a

I had only one roughhousing brother (and his roughhousing was only occasional...lucky me!); I am sure there were a few times that I wanted to run away from home to get away from him. I have no doubt that he felt the same way, too!

I was never nearly as brave as Loula. Truly, I never went further than imagining doing something as daring as leaving at all. I mean, where would I go, and how would I get there? I was enough of a pragmatist to know the limits of  my wandering.

Loula, on the other hand, has absolutely no qualms about running away from her terrible triplet brothers. She takes all the essentials...her cat, her tea set and the best drawing she has ever done. When she tells her parents, they seem unconcerned. After all, they have their own pursuits. Only Gilbert takes note of her determination and pluck. He is the family chauffeur, and offers his knowledge for traveling to Africa. He tells Loula that camels will be involved, and desert conditions, and travel by both boat and plane. That's all right with Loula. She is ready to be anywhere else!

Gilbert has a good heart, is full of good cheer, and a riotous imagination...that is just what Loula needs to help her escape the impish behavior of her bratty brothers. Their story is witty, and full of charm. When their adventures prove too much for a young and very tired Loula, Gilbert is right there with the means to take her home from Africa. He assures her that 'it is not too far away'.

The tale told in whimsical watercolors allows its audience to know the true story of the runaway. It is through those lovely and lively images that we come to know the meaning of friendship and shared imagination. As Gilbert accompanies Loula beyond the backyard tree that is her first destination, he begins a mapped trek through city streets, a nearby park, a pedal boat ride on a slow flowing river and a lovely picnic at sunset...all in the guise of their African trip. Would that we all had someone like Gilbert in our lives, and in the lives of our children..

One of my new favorite books of this year! Brava, Loula!


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