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Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Race, written and illustrated by Edouard Manceau. Translated by Sarah Quinn. Owlkids, 2014. $18.95 ages 6 and up

"It begins with a guy,

a can of paint,

and a paintbrush.

He paints a nice straight line..."

What is success? We might ask ourselves (and our students) this simple question after reading this contemplative fable from French author Edouard Manceau.

As I quoted above, one 'guy' begins it all. That guy is a colorful, erect caribou of sorts. He has antlers, big and expressive eyes, green boots, a stylish orange body, and he walks on two legs. He also carries everything he needs to set a race course for others of his ilk. Megaphone in hand, he calls the racers to the starting line.

Numbered 1 through 6, the caribou prepare to begin. A shotgun start has them out of the blocks and on their way. Only then do we become aware of the intense competition:

"There's always one guy who takes off
full tilt, without waiting for the others.
He must really want to be first."

He has an ace up his sleeve to slow down his fellow competitors. The 'banana peel' trick works, and causes chaos. It also creates determination in the others to catch up to, and surpass the leader. As the competition escalates, the race becomes ever more difficult. One racer finally succumbs to fatigue and common sense, leaving the race to find peace and contentment elsewhere.

In the end, readers might question who the real winner is.

Manceau uses his familiar cut paper collage to create the wonderful images that fill the pages of his newest book. The scenes are humorous and inviting, demanding close inspection to discover all that he wants us to see. The range of expression as the caribou run their race and  fall prey to the prank devised are entertaining and full of fun. There is much to note as the story unfolds. 

We are left to think about what is really important in our world...and to turn our attention to discussing it.

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