I think that there must be a moment during everyone’s childhood when you realize that adults are not infallible, not even your own parents. Over twenty years later, I can still remember my own personal moment, and those feelings are captured perfectly in Louis Undercover, written by playwright Fanny Britt and beautifully illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.
Louis is a young boy whose parents have separated. He and his little brother, Truffle, are shuttled between their mother’s apartment in the city and their father’s house in the country. Louis is “undercover” because he is a silent witness to the sadness of both his parents – his father drowns his in excessive drinking and his mother hides hers under a cheerful exterior.
Louis has other things on his mind as well. He needs to answer Truffle’s frequent questions, to help his best friend spot all the stealth police cars, and to figure out a way to approach his dream girl before the school year is over. But despite these distractions, there comes a point where Louis – and everyone else, really – has to face the truth about the family’s situation.
Britt is wonderful at depicting childhood trials – fighting parents, first crush – with just a few lines, but what makes or breaks a graphic novel for me is the artwork, and Arsenault delivers. I especially love how sadder moments are illustrated in shades of grey, but the mood becomes happier flashes of yellow and pink appear. Britt and Arsenault are the team behind the gorgeous Jane, the Fox and Me, one of my favorite graphic novels of all time. This is their follow-up, and I hope that there will be many more collaborations in the future.