Josette's cousin Louie has come to visit her, bringing with him a little whistle a gift from their grandfather in Paris. "Mama says Louie is spoiled," Josette says. "I say he is just Louie."
Josette is the narrator of The Little French Whistle, and from these few words, we understand her personality completely. She would like to try the whistle herself, but Louie is not one for sharing his toys. Sweet, patient Josette watches Louie as he tortures everyone in earshot with his loud, obnoxious whistling. Birds are frightened from their morning baths, the family poodle Fonfon is rudely awakened from her nap, and Grand-pére (the very same grandfather who gave the gift in the first place) is jarred from his bubblebath by Louie, who blew right into the bubbles. Though forgiving Josette still does not see her young cousin the way the rest of the world does (indeed, we all agree with Mama here), she is beginning to get the picture.
What will he do next? Louie startles a baby and runs back into the house, where he finally meets his match: Sheba, the cat. Sheba, like most cats, is not one to suffer fools patiently, and she gives Louie a bit of his own loud medicine ("HISSS!"), with a swat as a punctuation mark. The whistle is conveniently lost behind a cushion, and Louie is forced to go home without it. So, our heroine Josette finds it and plays it softly and sweetly for the same parties that were so offended by Louie's shrillness. Even Grand-pére is impressed. "You make music like in Paree," he exclaims.
In this familiar slice of family life, author Carole Lexa Schaefer tells the story of the spoiled boy and his loud toy without the predictable animosity of the jealous sibling or ranting adults. Having cousin Josette as the storyteller is the key here. Her sweet disposition is not cloying or false; she simply wants a turn at the whistle and follows Louie to see what will happen. Perhaps it is the European flavor of Chollat's delightful artwork, with its various references to Paris, and the round-faced, perpetually smiling characters moving through everyday experiences at the park and in the neighborhood, that make this book such a treasure. The Little French Whistle is a sweet tune you will want to hear again and again.