Today’s book review is for Loula is Leaving for Africa, by Anne Villeneuve, published by Kids Can Press. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
When Loula grows exasperated with her obnoxious triplet brothers, she decides to leave and go to Africa. Her parents are both so occupied with their own activities that they barely acknowledge her. Fortunately, the family chauffeur, Gilbert, knows the way. And so, armed with a hefty dose of imagination, Loula and Gilbert set off on a grand adventure through jungles, deserts, and seas–without ever leaving the city.
Loula is Leaving for Africa reminded me a bit of Eloise and Madeline in style and tone. It’s got that timeless classic feel to it, even though it’s a brand new book. Part of that has to do with Villeneuve’s writing–it feels like she’s looking back on a past era of children’s books. Rather that creating a hip, contemporary main character, she opts for a little girl who drinks tea, wears a boater hat, and hangs out with her chauffeur. And yet still creates a likable character that children will relate to.
The illustrations also have a bit of that throwback feel to them. They feature sketchy ink line drawings, colored by beautiful water color washes. For the most part, they’re from the same perspective, as well–that of someone looking down, into the scene. The people in the illustrations are fairly small, while the scenery fills most of the canvas. Since most of the text consists of dialogue, this approach works well. It rounds out the story and helps to make clear that Loula and Gilbert are using their imaginations.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Loula and Gilbert. It had a sweetness to it, while also being inspiring. Gilbert is able to recognize the emotional needs of Loula and he responds to them admirably. It’s a good reminder that sometimes kids just need the adults around them to take some time out of their day to imagine with them. A game of make believe can be the perfect way to escape a stressful day and exercise your creativity.
I give Loula is Leaving for Africa 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a wonderful story full of whimsy and imagination. I suspect that children will wish for a Gilbert of their own to take them on grand adventures.
You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.