Review Blog

Nov 01 2012

Monsieur Albert rides to glory by Peter Smith

cover image

Ill. by Bob Graham. Allen and Unwin, 2012. ISBN 978
(Ages 4+) Highly recommended. Picture book. Humour. Cycling. When Monsieur Albert hears about the cycling competition, he dons his cycle clips, makes himself neat and takes his bike downstairs from his little apartment, to the Parisian street below. He joins the other racers, one of whom, Francois, the clear favourite to win the race to Nice, is surrounded by adoring female fans. Mild derision comes from his lips as Albert fronts up.
Told in rhyming stanzas, the humour of the situation will not be lost on the readers. Monsieur Albert is sixty. He has none of the sporty clothes or flash bicycles of his competitors, he has taken along his bread and wine to eat along the way, he takes time during the race to wave to his friends, and stops to eat his bread when he feels the need for a rest. Once in the mountains, the going becomes much tougher and despite Monsieur Albert's cramp and aching legs, he struggles on. Ahead a small snowball comes tumbling down, getting bigger as it rolls, eventually rolling across the road taking all the cyclists with it, except for Monsieur Albert who is a little further behind the main group.
Just like the speed skater, Australian Steven Bradbury winning gold in the 2002 Olympics, Monsieur Albert wins the day as the others fall into the sea.
Akin to the fable of the tortoise and the hare, children will delight in Monsieur Albert's exploits, his perseverance and his courage as they follow his ride in both the text and the illustrations. Bob Graham's soft gentle drawings wrap themselves round the stanzas, perfectly encapsulating the ride to Nice. All sorts of details shine out from the pages, making it recognisably France and paralleling the fervour which follows cycling races the world over while the poem makes a few pertinent comments about racing which may be a point of discussion in the classroom.
Fran Knight

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