Framing a distant cousin to “The Tortoise and the Hare” in loosely sketched watercolors and delicious dactyls, Graham and his brother-in-law present an aging but game Parisian who quixotically enters a bicycle race to the Côte d’Azur.
Having impulsively lined up against hotshots like “handsome young François, surrounded by girls, / with a sneer on his lips and a shine on his curls,” 60-year-old Albert sets off on the grueling course and resolutely pedals on as others whiz by. Having labored through days of rain and snow, he reaches the top of the mountain pass at last—in time to watch as a giant snowball plummets past, snatches up all the other cyclists and plunges into the sea far below. As the erstwhile entrants drag their way to shore, Albert “rides into Nice, / with an escorting bevy of mounted police. / A hug from a film star, a kiss from the mayor, / for Albert Larousse—cyclist extraordinaire!” The verses’ clever rhymes and the handwritten-style typeface both complement Graham’s informal scenes of the balding, white-haired gent plugging along or sitting at his ease with bread and wine as flocks of helmeted cyclists zoom past—and ultimately holding up a golden trophy in triumph. Bravo!
Slow and steady wins the race—though being tardy enough to miss the avalanche helps. (Picture book. 6-8)