Loula is Leaving for Africa

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by Anne Villeneuve; published (2013) by Kids Can Press

Once in a while a gem comes along, like LOULA IS LEAVING FOR AFRICA, by Anne Villeneuve. Tender and sensitive, touching and tasteful, sparse and balanced, it is, in my opinion, a perfect book.

Loula is leaving for Africa, getting as far away as possible from her three mean, horrible, stinky brothers.

“Just don’t catch a cold,” says her opera singer mom.

“…don’t come home too late,” says her absent-minded dad.

But Africa, as it turns out, isn’t so very far away – it’s in the front lawn, up in a tree.  The most wonderful family chauffeur possible, Gilbert, plays up to Loula’s imagination perfectly.

“But Mademoiselle Loula, first you have to take a ship,”  he says (meaning the family car), “or else you will never get to Africa.” 

“Okay then, I’ll take a ship,” says Loula.

“Good.  Do you have your ticket?”  says he.

“No… but I have my best drawing.  Will that do?”  says Loula.

“It will do just fine,” declares Gilbert.

And it is a long trip.  They’ll have to cross a jungle (park), ignoring the enormous snake in the tree, of course.  They’ll have to make do with simple ostrich egg soufflé and grasshopper sandwich (ice cream) and cross a desert (a sandbox) and take a plane (a seesaw) and ferry across the park pond where they will sip Loula’s make-believe tea from a mini tea set tucked away in her suitcase.  The African sunset is glorious, orange and grand…

“They have the nicest sunsets in Africa,”  murmurs Gilbert.

Gently he coaxes little Loula back home.  Gently, one exquisite line and amusing, tender image after another, I was coaxed into this story too, with a feeling of wonder at this beautiful book.  I cannot imagine anyone being indifferent to it.

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