Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Louis Undercover

Britt, Fanny (Author)
Arsenault, Isabelle (Illustrator)
Groundwood Books 2017. 158 pages
First published: 2017
ISBN: 9781554988594 (hardcover)
9781554988600 (e-book)
Original language: French
Book type: Graphic Text
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

layout, multimodal, point of view

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Louis, a child undercover in an adult world, knows that his father cries, and he knows why: “it’s first and foremost because of the wine.” Louis and his brother Truffle live with their mom in the city and visit their father, who stayed on the family farm after the marriage ended. Over several chapters, this graphic novel also introduces Louis’ best friend Boris and his crush Billie. Summer vacation passes in a blur: the brothers adopt a raccoon they name Michael Jackson; the family is briefly reunited; and Dad, after a relapse, checks himself into rehab. Louis must confront what he feels is his father’s legacy and worries “that I might have to be like him and drink all kinds of wine to forget.” Complex psychological issues are presented in a voice that is sophisticated yet childlike: “I shut my eyes tight to block my ears,” Louis says during a fight. The translation is seamless and vibrant; the language, powerful and apt.

Illustrated in greys, blacks and washed-out dun shades, the pencil and watercolour images are suggestive of the bleakness that those battling addiction struggle to escape, and with which their loved ones must contend. Occasional bursts of green or yellow denote happy memories, music, sobriety and family togetherness. Each scene or vignette unfolds distinctly, while the narrative arc is stylistically maintained. With scant lines and ample shadows, the characters and their fears are rendered in a way that alludes to their emotions while leaving room for the reader to enter their lives.

  •  Think about the issues that can make family life difficult. Discuss how things like poverty, addiction and divorce affect families and children.
  •  Consider how the author and illustrator collaborated to create this text. Discuss the use of font, colour and page layout. How do they contribute to the reader’s experience?
  •  Why does Louis think he could end up like his father? Do you wonder if you will follow in your parents’ footsteps? Record your reflections in your reader-writer’s notebook.
  •  

    In a small group, exercise sensitivity as you discuss how alcoholism, particularly in parents, can affect a family. What are the short and long-term effects on the kids?

  •  

    As you read, pay careful attention to how the author uses colour to convey meaning. Take note of what each colour scheme represents.

  •  

    How will things go for Louis and Billie after their first encounter? Write a dialogue/script reflecting their first full conversation, the day after Louis’s comment to Billie about her bike.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To use information
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Visual Arts