While he has no difficulty overcoming much larger and fiercer opponents in the boxing ring, the eponymous hero of this quirky collaboration may nonetheless struggle to find an appreciative audience.
Lalouche is a postman in late-19th-century Paris. Slight but strong, he enjoys his work, adores his pet finch, Geneviève, and appreciates his small apartment, even if it doesn’t have a view. Naturally, he is devastated when his superior informs him that he’s being replaced. Determined to find work, he responds to an advertisement for sparring partners, and the rest is history (though there’s a bit of mockery to endure before he triumphs). Luckily enough, the postal service’s new “fleet of electric autocars” don’t work out as expected, so by the happy ending, Lalouche is back to pounding the pavement and chatting with old friends on his regular route. Olshan’s understated text flows smoothly, with occasional French phrases that emphasize the continental charm of his offbeat narrative. Blackall’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations, meanwhile, combine exaggerated size differences and unusual angles with a collagelike style to create a gently humorous, old-fashioned, scrapbook feel. Illustrations of Lalouche’s opponents are particularly amusing, including those that decorate the endpapers. Blackall’s personal collection of pictures of old-time boxers apparently inspired Olshan’s narrative; though thoroughly accomplished, it nonetheless has a very adult feel.
It remains to be seen whether young listeners will consider Lalouche a real contender. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)