cover image Louis and the Dodo

Louis and the Dodo

Mark Shulman, , illus. by Vincent Nguyen. . Sterling, $14.95 (36pp) ISBN 978-1-4027-2872-3

Like a surrealist painting, the premise of this dreamlike story is disturbing, but newcomer Nguyen's noteworthy illustrations are suitably mysterious. Louis's parents worry about him because he has no friends except for the backyard birds. He disdains the baseball mitt his mother hands him, saying, "Those kids don't want to play with me... I'm not like them," and he is perfectly content to hang out with his bird friends exclusively. Nguyen pictures Louis in his red boots, clownish suit and bird-beaked hat, saving bird's eggs from a marauding cat and holding an umbrella over a nest of fledglings. Louis embarks on a journey when his feathered friends ask him to help save a caged dodo bird from menacing circus performers. As in a dream, the plot zig-zags with bizarre twists and turns, and Louis ends up rescuing the dodo and returning it to a hidden island paradise for birds. When Louis gets homesick, the birds lead him to a wooden door in a small hill that opens into his own real life bedroom, and he realizes he can return to bird paradise "any time he wished." Although the narrator assures readers that loner Louis knows "all about friendship" ("It meant helping... and protecting... and being brave"), his slip from reality into a fantasy world without human contact is disquieting. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)