Review: The Mighty Lalouche June 1, 2013Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
First, it was wombats. Now it’s 19th century French boxers. Somehow, illustrator Sophie Blackall has a knack for getting me hooked on subjects that I would never think of as picture-book material. The Mighty Lalouche, written by Matthew Olshan and illustrated by Blackall, is for anyone who likes boxing, Paris or stories of quirky underdogs.
Lalouche is a postman who loves his job. But the world is changing and when a fleet of electric autocars are introduced, he loses his job and must find some other way of supporting himself and his pet finch Genevieve. AFter coming across a poster advertising a need for boxers, he presents himself to a skeptical manager who declares “I could sneeze and knock you down!” But Lalouche proves, against various opponents that he is nimble, fast and strong and above all that you should “…never underestimate a man who loves his finch.” Despite his success in the ring, Lalouche still misses his old life and when asked to return to work as a postman, he happily complies.
Olshan explains in an author’s note that French boxing in the 19th century allowed the use of feet and favored agility and speed, which meant small opponents could often defeat bigger ones. The note also includes some great photos of real boxers, which were the original inspiration for the story. Blackall’s illustrations were created as shallow paper dioramas which were then photographed and you can see more of her in progress work on the Seven Impossible Things blog, here. The details in each exquisite layer of paper are astonishing and bring the story to life beautifully. This is a great read-aloud celebrating the underdog, with a liberal dose of nostalgia for mail and stamps thrown in. Vive Lalouche!