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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Loula and the Sister Recipe, written and illustrated by Anne Villeneuve. Kids Can Press, 2014. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"They wait an eternity.
Loula sighs. "Gilbert,
my sister recipe doesn't
seem to be working. I
will never have a sister."
"Hmm," says Gilbert,
thinking. "Perhaps we
are missing some
Loula gasps."

I am thrilled to spend time with Loula in her second book about life with Gilbert, her intrepid chauffeur and friend. If you met her, as I did, in Loula Is Leaving for Africa, you cannot help but feel sympathetic. She has well-meaning but self-indulgent parents; rotten, highly annoying triplet brothers who make her wish for nothing more than 'a sister just like me'; and Gilbert who loves her unconditionally and does whatever it takes to make her happy.

When she decides a sister might be just the ticket, she asks her Papa and Mama. They explain that a sister doesn't just happen; rather, you need just 'the right ingredients.' What might those be, Loula wonders. Her parents explain:

"Yes, my little sprout. You
need a papa and a mama...
and, um ... butterflies in the
stomach ... and ... and..."
"A full moon," continues
Loula's mother. "And a candlelit
supper, kisses and hugs ..."
"Is that all?" asks Loula.
"And chocolate!" adds her father, chuckling."

Armed with every bit of information she needs, and filled with ideas of her own, Loula is off to make that sister she so desperately wants. Gilbert, always up for a challenge, is right there with her every step of the way. It is no surprise that they succeed in their quest to fulfill Loula's most ardent wish, albeit in a sharp and surprising way!

Using ink and watercolor, Ms. Villeneuve recreates Loula's world with energetic lines and lots of white space, allowing her young audience to track Loula in her search for that new sister. Spot pictures allow us to keep up with all of the action, and to appreciate the many indulgences Gilbert provides for his young charge. The closing series of panels, showing Loula's joy at having the 'sister' she so desperately wanted, are both hilarious and heartwarming.      

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