Louie! Hardcover – 5 Mar 2009
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
In two straight lines they broke their bread
and brushed their teeth
and went to bed.
They smiled at the good
and frowned at the bad
and sometimes they were very sad.
They left the house at half past nine in two straight lines
or shine --
the smallest one was Madeline."
I expect that upon first glimpsing the painting of the Eiffel Tower on the cover of LOUIE!, many a reader -- whether young or old -- will be instantly reminded of the 1940 Caldecott Honor book that has been, for so many millions of American children, their introduction to Paris. Just think about how so many who are contemporaries to the Beatles have a memorable childhood experience in common with Twenty-first century preschoolers along with all of us who have been children in the decades in between then and now.
LOUIE! is the story of a little piglet in Paris named Louie who loves drawing, who stays up late drawing, and who is prone to drawing on anything that stands still.
Louie "also loved the stories his mother would tell him of her own piglethood. How she had been small and a little mischievous. How she had been sent to an old schoolhouse in Paris that was covered in vines, where the girls walked in two straight lines."
Louie is a pig who has a tough time with school. "So Louie was sent to another school. A school that promised to pass 'even the dullest of pigs.'
"Louie tried -- he read stories and answered the teacher's questions -- but in the margins of his papers, he drew pictures of things that made him happy.
"The headmaster sent him home for good. 'Petit porc stupide!' he said."
As readers will learn, the ever-drawing Louie was eventually "discovered," first by a family friend "who bought art for pigs all over the world" and then by an editor lady with a very large hat named May who "made books for little piggies:"
"He showed her every picture he'd ever drawn in his journal, on menus, even some drawings on his window blinds (he had run out of paper again).
"Miss May said, 'Oooh la la, Louie, you should draw books for little piggies.'"
Beyond being a very entertaining introduction to the life of Ludwig Bemelmans, LOUIE! is an exceptional picture book in which Will Hillenbrand has incorporated a variety of media to great effect:
"The illustrations were done with ink, pencil, finger-paint, collage and gouache on vellum. These elements were scanned, digitally manipulated and printed on watercolor paper. Final details were added with colored pencil."
There are visual allusions galore for young readers to appreciate. And there are many illustrations that contain so many levels of action that they beg for a third and a fourth and a fifth look. Watch carefully for the chef in the background with the fish that is the size of a cow. Check out that movement in four different directions at the same time in the picture of Louie on his bicycle getting knocked off of the road by an automobile. And then turn the page and see what Louie observes from his hospital bed.
Thankfully, Louie recovered from his bicycle accident and "lived his remaining days making pictures and delighting little and medium-sized and big piggies everywhere."
And, fortunately for all of us, Will Hillenbrand has given us one more reason to look at and share Bemelmans' ageless classics.
Louie! is loosely based on the life of Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the children's book, Madeline. Many of the events in Louie! did in fact happen in the artist's life. At the end of the book, Mr. Hillenbrand provides more information about Ludwig Bemelman.
Louie! is a lovely story that would appeal to children ages five through eight. The colorful illustrations are well-done. Children who are unable to read would still know what is going on just from looking at the pictures. There is a lot of humor in the details. One of my personal favorites is of the uppity odd couple who came to the hotel. The uppity fat sow falls backwards in her chair and loses her pig wig after seeing a sketch of herself drawn on the back of a menu.
I read the story to my six-year old son. He thoroughly enjoyed the book and asked me to read it several more times. Louie! would make an excellent addition to any children's library.