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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

An Armadillo in Paris, ,written and illustrated by Julie Kraulis. Tundra Books, Random House. 2014. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"Café Gustave is the place I like to go every day for breakfast when I am in Paris. I once met a talented architect here named Gustave who designed the Iron Lady. He was the man responsible for her worldwide fame. This is the perfect place to start your journey, Arlo. You must try the pastries!"

We read and starred this book last year when working on a jury for the Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens 2015 - Spring Edition. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to tell you about it. It is quite a unique and charming read.

Arlo has an inherited propensity for travel and adventure. At his birth, he receives an exceptional set of journals from his grandfather. Those journals contain descriptions of Grandfather Augustin's favorite travels, meant to encourage his grandson to follow in his footsteps. 

Arlo's trip to Paris is made more enticing by his grandfather's plea to visit the Iron Lady.

"Dearest Arlo, Paris is one of my favorite cities. I can't wait for you to explore this beautiful place overflowing with art, history and life. You'll love it as much as I do, especially my most favourite thing in Paris: The Iron Lady. Follow the path I've laid out for you in this journal and you will learn all about her - and even get to meet her! Bon Voyage, Arlo."

The entry is too tempting to ignore. Arlo is off on a wander through the streets of Paris, following the advice of his grandfather and the clues he provides. The informative journal pages are placed on each double page spread above the third person description of Arlo's journey. He is dropped off at the Arc De Triomphe ... the perfect place to take in all of the excitement found on Parisian streets. Next stop is Café Gustave and the start to his search, as suggested by Augustin.

Through Paris streets he wanders, past storefronts (is there a clue there?), a bakery, the pyramid in the courtyard at the Louvre, a bridge over the Seine, and many other famous attractions. Each new stop offers a clue to his ultimate destination. Finally, picnic basket in hand, he stands awed by the grandeur of the Lady herself. Readers need to turn the book to the vertical to see her rare beauty.

Following the text, the author adds further information about the lady herself, assuring that readers will understand the appeal of one of Paris' most famous landmarks.

The elegant illustrations done in oils and graphite add an absolutely gorgeous enticement for our trip, walking at Arlo's side and taking in all the sights. I love the subtle additions of red, blue and gold to grab our attention (Arlo's jaunty scarf is perfect!) as we wander and take in the clues that are so skillfully included. Changing perspectives help us see the city from varying viewpoints and give dimension to each of his many stops.

Arlo is charm itself, and a most delightful companion for our trip through the City of Light.

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