Loula is Leaving for Africa by Anne Villeneuve
Published by: Kids Can Press
Release date: September 2013
From the publisher: Loula has had enough of her terrible triplet brothers and decides to run away to Africa. Luckily, her mother’s chauffeur, Gilbert, knows just how to get there. Together, Loula and Gilbert ride camels, cross a desert and, most important, use heaps of imagination in this heartwarming adventure.
Running away. It’s a childhood rite of passage. At some point in our childhood, most of us can remember stomping our feet, crossing our arms, and announcing our intent to begin a new life elsewhere. I can remember this moment in my own life. When I announced to my mother my intent to leave, she told me she would miss me, then calmly helped me pack my bag and waved goodbye. I think I made it to the neighbor’s yard, where I’m sure I waited as long as 10 minutes, before sulking back home.
So readers both young and old will relate to Loula, who has had enough of her “MEAN HORRIBLE STINKY” brothers. When Loula announces her intent to leave, her distracted parents wish her well and warn her to be home before dark. Determined, Loula packs her most important items (a stuffed cat, a tea set and her best drawing) and heads off to Africa. Which, she decides, is a tree in the backyard.
Were this all there is to the story, the tale would be ho-hum. But it’s the entrance of another a character, the family chauffeur, Gilbert, that takes this story from amusing to touching. Like her parents, Gilbert is not alarmed by Loula’s desire to run away. In fact, he agrees to escort her on her long journey. On a ship (the limo), through the jungle (a park), to a stop at a restaurant (ice cream truck), over the dessert (sandbox), and finally across a vast ocean (lake) to Africa, just in time for tea and a sunset. And when all is said and done, Gilbert escorts her safely back home, which it turns out is not so far away after all.
This a story of kindness, of unusual friendship, and of vivid imagination. The pen and ink watercolor, the imaginative light-hearted adventure, and the spirit of kindness are delightful. Those who appreciate the original Madeline books, or titles by the author-illustrator team of Sarah Steward and David Small will also find joy in Loula. A contemporary book with a classic feel.