Quietly does it

18th September 1998 at 01:00
LOUDMOUTH LOUIS. By Anne Fine. Puffin Pounds 3.99.

We all know Louis. He is the child who never stops talking, causing grown-ups to draw wearily on a hundred variations of "Shut up!" When Louis's class is arranging events to raise funds for the new school library, Louis is so busy talking that he is left out of all group enterprises, and is finally reduced to a desperate solo effort - a sponsored silence. Loudmouth Louis is the story of Louis Todd's heroic Silent Day.

Anne Fine has always had a marvellous ear for the dialogue between adults and children, and her comedies of home and school for very young readers are alive with the banter, the amiable sarcasm, the theatrical gestures by which adults make contact without losing face.

Louis's child's-eye view of his world is entirely convincing. What makes his day of silence so special is that just for once he can listen to his world undeafened by the din of his own making. To his surprise he finds it interesting, and fun.

Loudmouth Louis is a story with a moral. If you talk too much, you miss out on things. So do your friends, because of you. The story goes unfinished, the percussion band never gets through its piece, the gym class never gets to use the ropes. So shut up! The comedy, the jokes, the acute observation are good enough to stop this entertaining story short of moral homily. But only just.

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