Friday, 28 June 2013

Louis - Red Letter Day by Metaphrog (Metaphrog Publishing)

Ah Louis, how I empathise greatly with you today! We're back once again looking at the wonderful work of Metaphrog, and here's the book that started it all for one of the most intriguing, interesting and downright surreal characters in comics, the sublime Louis.

You may have seen our interview with John and Sandra AKA Metaphrog (if not, go take a peek!) and we've previously also reviewed the utterly excellent "Louis - Night Salad" and the touching "The Photographs" from this talented duo, so let's take a look way back at Louis' first outing.

Louis is a fairly ordinary everyday kind of chap. Like most of us, he has a day job that kinda sucks, he has some companionship (in the shape of his awesome little robo-bird FC) and as we're introduced to Louis here in "Red Letter Day", he has a caring aunt who writes to him at great length.

Or does he? You see, key to the Louis books are a pair of nefarious characters. A "boss" who seems to delight in psychological manipulation and teasing, playing rather cruel tricks and jokes on Louis (who is largely completely oblivious to his cruelty, thankfully) and an annoyingly wheedling sidekick ("Shiny") who aids "the boss" in his trickery.

So we soon find out that they are actually writing to Louis, pretending to be his long lost aunt, just to get him to do daft things ("Wear big shoes! Grow a silly little chin beard!").

Charlotte pointed out that Louis books are like dreams. Imagine if you can a fever-dream where your frenzied night-time mumblings as you talk in your sleep during fitful dreams start to form a world around you. This is how it feels when you read a Louis book, like you're tapped directly into Louis' thoughts as his conscious and subconscious states mix and meld together.

The story delights in throwing you curve-balls thick and fast (Charlotte was on the edge of her seat when Louis' beloved FC is kidnapped and unceremoniously dumped in the trash, HOW DARE THEY!!) but as with Night Salad, it's down to the individual to discover the rather touching, and at times quite dark story of isolation, friendship and the daily grind that underpins Louis' characters and settings.

We can't get enough of Louis. Best of all, towards the end of the book you'll learn a lot more about Louis' origins, and some of the processes that John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs use while dreaming up Louis stories.

Fantastic for children, essential for grown ups. Love Louis!

Charlotte's best bit: Louis' joy at seeing FC enthusiastically scarfing down lots of lovely seeds and nuts (and a 5 year old fist-shake at Louis' nasty tormentors for making off with FC!)

Daddy's favourite bit: Beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated, at all times a book that makes you feel you're being slowly enveloped in an allegorical dreamscape whispering in multi-tones about the human condition. So much to come away from this book with, can't wait to read more!

(Kindly sent to us for review by John and Sandra at Metaphrog)