Elegantly droll and extravagantly French, from the fittingly unpossessive title to the "shiny cuirass" M. Racine dons defensively with his cavalry uniform. Because "One morning, alas! three times, alas! he found all his pears gone" -- they were his pride and his joy, not for selling or sharing; now he's lying, soon sleeping, in wait for the thief. . . upon whose arrival "Our avenger jumped to his feet and grabbed his saber. 'Sapristi!'" And voila the beast -- with "long, socklike ears. . . on both sides of an apparently eyeless head," and a "shaggy, mangled mane" topping what Ungerer (forked tongue in cheek) calls a "drooping snout" but distends mistakably like an unconfigurated phallus. Honi soit. . . and all that (see particularly said proboscis as emblematized fourfold on the back cover), but the quite corrigible homme de guerre -- dressed to kill yet extending a nice macaroon on the tip of his blade in a tentative gesture of friendship -- is the very picture of a straight-man: "'More delicacies of this sort and it could be tamed,'" he reflects, and the ensuing picnic is the start of something magnifique continually outdoing itself. "'I lost my pears but found a companion,'" muses the bespectacled old man sporting a red fez and puffing on a hookah; he's relaxing before the gramophone while his most curious of pets ("It was especially fond of cookies, chocolate, and ice cream") sits soulfully sipping through a straw. After communing on sliding pond, cycle, and swing, they end up at the Academy of Sciences in Paris, and what happens there shall not here be disclosed since it crowns the glory of the rest. . . (the French would dub it formidable). What meets the eye is at once exuberant and economical; both pictures and text are more and less sophisticated than they seem. This is funny and bright and immediate on lots of levels, a sort of rare tour de farce for the whole family.