Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 10 to 14
- Grade: 5 to 9
- Reading age: 10 to 14
A stunning graphic novel from the award-winning creators of Jane, the Fox and Me.
In this powerful new graphic novel from Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault, we meet Louis, a young boy who shuttles between his alcoholic dad and his worried mom, and who, with the help of his best friend, tries to summon up the courage to speak to his true love, Billie.
Louis’s dad cries — Louis knows this because he spies on him. His dad misses the happy times when their family was together, just as Louis does. But as it is, he and his little brother, Truffle, have to travel back and forth between their dad’s country house and their mom’s city apartment, where she tries to hide her own tears.
Thankfully, Louis has Truffle for company. Truffle loves James Brown lyrics, and when he isn’t singing, he’s asking endless questions. Louis also has his friend Boris, with whom he spots ghost cop cars and spies on the “silent queen,” the love of his life, Billie.
When Louis and Truffle go to their dad’s for two weeks during the summer, their father seems to have stopped drinking. And when Truffle has a close call from a bee sting, their mother turns up and the reunited foursome spend several wonderful days in New York — until they reach the end of the road, again.
A beautifully illustrated, true-to-life portrayal of just how complex family relationships can be, seen through the eyes of a wise, sensitive boy who manages to find his own way forward.
Key Text Features
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
About the authors
Fanny Britt is a playwright, novelist and translator. Her play Bienveillance won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama (French). Her first novel, Les maisons, was short-listed for the France-Québec prize and the Prix littéraire des collégiens. She has also translated and adapted some thirty plays and novels.
Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault first collaborated on the graphic novel Jane, the Fox and Me, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Illustration (French) and the Joe Shuster Awards for Best Writer and Best Artist. It was also named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book.
Isabelle Arsenault is a very talented Quebec illustrator who has won an impressive number of awards and has achieved international recognition. She has illustrated Migrant by Maxine Trottier, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, winner of the Governor General’s Award; Le coeur de monsieur Gauguin by Marie-Danielle Croteau, winner of the Governor General’s Award; and My Letter to the World and Other Poems by Emily Dickinson, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. She has also illustrated Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Pendziwol and Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, forthcoming from Groundwood. Isabelle has won the Grand Prix for illustration (Magazines du Québec) for six years running. She lives with her family in Montreal.
- Winner, The Best American Comics
- Commended, Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Books of the Year
- Commended, ALSC Notable Children's Books
- Short-listed, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award
- Commended, School Library Journal Top 10 Graphic Novels
Excerpt: Louis Undercover (by (author) Fanny Britt; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault)
He’s thinking of our life before,
when all four of us lived here,
and he built chairs smelling
of wood and varnish,
and my mom made shortbread cookies
smelling of butter and
peace of mind.
He’s thinking back to Truffle’s squeals
when he was a baby, his first
He’s thinking back to our camping trips,
our guessing games in the car,
our snowball fights.
He’s thinking of my mom’s smile
back when she still smiled.
I know because I am, too.
* * *
That’s her, Billie.
She’s a spectacled siren, a rainstorm,
a chocolate fountain, a silent queen.
Billie doesn’t say much.…
But when she does speak, the world ignites
and explodes in clusters of honey and fire.
. . . a graceful exploration of the frightening fragility and tentative resilience of preteen boys.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, STARRED REVIEW
An engagingly thoughtful and thought-provoking read from beginning to end.
Britt writes with perception about the torment of first love and the pain felt by children caught up in a foundering marriage. … Arsenault excels at capturing characters in the grip of powerful emotions they’re trying to conceal.
Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
The collaborators behind Jane, the Fox & Me have crafted another poignant picture book–sized graphic novel, this time about alcoholism, family separation, and the meaning of bravery.
Horn Book, STARRED REVIEW
An unflinching, delicate portrait of a boy and his broken family.
Arsenault's symbolic use of color and animated illustrations breathe life into Britt's quirky, beautiful story, which emphasizes that love is the bravest act of all.
School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW
A deceptively complex book — simple enough for children, but with enough layers to reward repeated readings by adults.
Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
This nuanced tale of an observant, sensitive boy finding his own brand of strength is bittersweet and beautifully composed.
Booklist, STARRED REVIEW