Review of ‘Louis Beside Himself’
Jackie is my partner in crime (aka my teaching partner). She was hired as I thought she and I were SO similar. In fact we are not: she runs, hops, skips, jumps and generally enjoys sweating. She also does not cook…SHOCK! HORROR! Fortunately we have bonded over the important things in life: books; gardens; education; humour. Jackie and I are speaking next week at the Children’s Book Council Claytons Night so we’ve both been busily reading and reviewing some of the best in children’s and YA books. Here is one of her latest favourites.
Title: ‘Louis Beside Himself’
Author: Anna Fienberg
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Age Range: upper primary to lower secondary
Themes: Family, Relationships, Grief, Friendship, Change, Growing up, Multiculturalism, Conflict, Courage, Identity
Click on title links or cover image to purchase.
After spending a fair amount of time lately reading ‘war’ narratives I needed something light and funny…so ‘Louis Beside Himself’ it was! It’s a slightly larger-than-life story of a boy who adores words, and as a teacher librarian what more could I want!
The protagonist, Louis, just loves words and would much rather read, take notes and add to his’ Word Bank’ than join his mates skateboarding or playing basketball. Louis’ father comes from a long line of wrestlers and tries constantly to share moves and arm-wrestles with him, often with quite hilarious results as he was never that great himself!
“…jumped in the air, spun three hundred and sixty degrees and shot out a leg…..his leg hit the kitchen chair, which stabbed into the wall leaving a big dark mark and a golf-ball-sized dent.”
Louis lives with his Dad and sister, Rosie. His mother died when he was 8 months old and as he says…’you can’t miss something you never had’, but cherishes his Mum’s Roget’s Thesaurus. I felt all Louis really wants is to talk about his Mum and get the occasional cuddle!
While Louis is home alone one night, which happens more often as Dad is spending time with Doreen, a burglar breaks in and Louis fails to use his wrestling moves to protect himself but uses his own special skills…and so the story begins.
The intruder turns out to be Cordelia, who has run away from family problems. Louis and his mates invite Cordelia to stay in a tent in his backyard. Cordelia fixes things around the yard and house and she also embraces ‘words’. She is the reason Louis loses his wordsmith abilities, especially around her, which causes him to reflect on where he fits within his family and friends. Louis slowly realises things are changing and he is not sure he understands.
As the story develops, he must make some important decisions and take action. He goes out on a limb to help Cordelia and things don’t work out the way he planned. There are lots of funny moments with quite a few sad elements too.
Louis is not your typical hero but he finds himself in a situation where courage and loyalty are needed. The author leads us to believe there is a hero in us all and that if we are true to ourselves we can be true to others.
The story flows and keeps a steady pace throughout. The author has created an interesting and multiculturally diverse group of characters which often leads to humorous and uplifting moments in the story. There are plenty of messages and ideas to reflect and ponder.
Louis collects words and as an adult dedicated to sharing and encouraging children to read and expand their vocabulary, however there were times when the highlighted ‘words’ became irritating! Did I just say that? Ouch!
‘Louis Beside Himself’ is a delightful story and will be popular with young male readers 10 yrs +
Follow it up in the home, classroom or library:
- Research some wrestling moves and try them out with friends!
- Watch the book trailer and create your own. Record yourself talking about the book at the end.
- What would you do if you were at home on your own and a burglar enters? Watch good old “Home Alone” and design some traps to catch an intruder.
- Create a’ wordle’ with interesting words. This one is from Louis’ word bank.