Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
Allen and Unwin (2012.)
Why is it unusual? For a start, the hero is 60. Most main characters in children's picture books tend to be young children or animals. The text is really a poem, a ballad that tells the story of Monsieur Albert riding his bicycle in a race from Paris to Nice.
There's a hush in the crowd as the mayor lifts his gun,
then an ear-splitting Bang! and the race has begun,
with a flashing of goggles and pale cyclists' knees,
and a murmuring sound like the bumble of bees.
Monsieur Albert enters the Grand Cycle Race, but he's up against Francois, the champion of France. Can he possibly win? Witty text by Pete Smith and gentle, funny illustrations by Bob Graham make this story a classic, ideal for reading aloud to young and old.
Monsieur Albert rides to glory certainly does beg to be read aloud. Kids will enjoy the rollicking rhythm, the illustrations, and the tale itself. I believe they'll cheer for the underdog and want Monsieur Albert to win. Even young children understand what it is to have a dream and the courage to pursue it. Smith has given us a story to enjoy, maybe even one to inspire.
Graham's illustrations perfectly complement Smith's gentle humour. He captures the spirit of Paris and France with details like the traffic jams, the buildings and the landmarks. I love Graham's art - as usual, his illustrations provoke a constant ripple of laughter.
The publisher recommends Monsieur Albert rides to glory for ages 6-8. I think kids older than 8 will appreciate the book too. In fact, I think it would make a great poetry resource for libraries and classrooms. The vocabulary means there's lots to discuss with kids - vin ordinaire, cobblestones, the Champs Elysees and the triumphant Arc certainly give a sense of setting!
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