Luigi isn’t the biggest or strongest boy in his city neighborhood, but he is most certainly the fastest.
Summer on Philadelphia’s Regent Street means enjoying barefoot racing, a favorite activity, possibly unique to the neighborhood. Children race each other endlessly, and Luigi is the acknowledged and unbeaten champion. When Mikey Muldoon, a kid from another neighborhood, loses to Luigi, he is angry in defeat and proposes another contest, this time against his unnamed best friend. The anticipation turns to disbelief and shock when Mikey’s best friend turns out to be everyone’s worst nightmare, Mean Max, who is so scary he doesn’t even appear in the illustrations. A terrified Luigi will not go back on his word, and the race is on. It is very close, with first one then the other in the lead. And the winner is Luigi. He has beaten the fiercest opponent of all, but the race spawns a new rule, one that will have readers wondering whether this really happened, or is it a tall tale? Paley sets a breathless pace that keeps readers guessing. The tale is told by a nostalgic witness, and it captures a strong sense of neighborhood pride. Boyd’s bright illustrations move right along with the action and depict a multicultural community from a variety of panoramic and close-up perspectives. An afterword tells of the author’s Philadelphia childhood and provides information about tall tales.
Cheers for Luigi. (Picture book. 4-9)