by Édouard Manceau
translated by Sarah Quinn
Owlkids Books, Inc. 4/15/2014
Age 3 to 7 64 pages
“A group of caribou gather to run a race that begins at one line and ends at another. But what happens in between? The caribou engage in some rather outlandish tricks in order to be the first to cross the finish line. But in the midst of this titanic struggle for victory, some of the caribou stop to question the merits of their single-minded pursuit of winning at all costs. Follow this hapless herd of caribou in a race to the finish. Who wins? You decide.”
“It begins with a guy, a can of paint, and a paintbrush.”
One inventive caribou lays down two lines: one at the beginning and one at the end. He picks up a megaphone and shouts to the racers, who are limbering behind the start line. Six caribou—male, in case you were wondering—warm-up for the race. The starter’s gun gets the racers ready, and set, and number 4 takes off! Unbelievable. Unheard of. Under the starter’s gun, number 4 is marched back, front legs in the air.
The idea of six caribou racing from one line to another line is silly. They have a number stuck to their belly and wear running shoes of assorted colors. The hard-working caribou that painted the lines, and holds the starter’s gun, looks angry. Maybe because he’d rather race than officiate, but he cannot. It would be improper. A conflict of interest. A sure —“BANG!”
Number 5 jumps into the lead, the others not far behind. Wait, what is that in number 5’s hand? Why it’s a . . . Oh, no! The back five tumble into each other. A caribou-clog stops all traffic on the track; they are the traffic on the track. Now number 5 has an insurmountable lead. Even quick caribou couldn’t overtake him now. Wait, what is that? It’s a motto.
“Quitting is not an option!”
I love the scene where the five clumsy caribou sit on the sideline, tended to by caribou doctors. I mean, doctors who are caribou. One listens to a heart, another glues—gorilla glues—an antler that snapped in two, while the third sports scissors and orange gauze, wrapping up bruises, and gashes, and sprains, and anything else you can imagine are under those bandages. Amid all the broken caribou and the medical supplies is the cause of the caribou clog-up; the thing number 5—and they are off!
Number 6 takes a fast second place. Wait, now what is on the course? A green truck!? Great, the caribou will be hit, clog up the racecourse, and need more medical attention. Where is the lead caribou? Oh my, the injured racers are all kiting toward him. Flying closer and closer, the five straggling racers have surpassed number 5! WAIT! Why are they stopping for water . . . fish . . . electrolytes? Number 5 is sure to retake the lead. Where is number 5? He’s where . . . up there!? Looks like number 5 is out of the race, folks.
One of the funniest things about The Race is the twists and turns that pop out of nowhere. The caribou all want to win, no matter the cost. They are making bold moves, possibly illegal-to-caribou-racing moves. Young children will love The Race. Zany and fast paced, the illustrations tell the majority of the story. Each spread has only one or two sentences. For example, here is the start of the race:
“That brings a bunch of other guys who start bending and twisting.” [spread 3]
“Then the first guy comes back with a pistol, and everyone freezes.” [spread 4]
“Sometimes, one of them tries to get away.” [spread 5]
“It doesn’t usually take long to catch him. That’s called a false start.” [spread 6]
The words don’t always seem related to the action. The above example could have been a criminal line-up as easily as the start of a race. I like how that possible confusion emphasizes the role and importance of illustrations in picture books. The two parts — Look, someone took off, leaving the refueling station and the rest of the racers behind! He is quickly moving away. Look at that lead! Wait, here come the rest, led by number 3 holding an empty bottle in his hoof. With one eye patched—after the caribou clog up—it is quite possible he will miss number 4. Oh, but look! Right behind 3 is number 1 carrying a fish, and he is not eating it.
Number 6 finishes his drink on the run, then he and number 3 shove those bottles onto number 4’s antlers. Number 3 takes the lead with 6 on his hoof “heels.” What a caribou. Numbers 1 and 2 pull up the rear. Number 2 has avoided last place all race. Wait! Number 1 surpassed number 2! Poor number 2, he looks so pooped. Look! He tore off his number. The caribou is hoofing it home. He quit.
If they are extremely competitive, from sports or video games, kids might call that caribou a quitter. I don’t think he is a quitter. Did he really quit or decide racing is not for him? He went home, spruced the place up, and now enjoys himself and his home. He did take number 2 home for a souvenir. It lays on his —Number 4 is in a hole! Number 6 looks on viciously at the top-heavy caribou. That caribou is as mean as he looks. What is he doing to . . .
Phew! A review amidst a race makes for a long post. I think I will stop now. You’re welcome.
Messages. The Race’s messages include whether winning at all costs is worth the win. Is hampering the other players with tricks so you can win fair play? Who really won this race? The first banged up racer to cross the finish line or the racer who realized it was not worth the cost and quit? I coached kids for seven years and know the players’—and parents’—win-at-all-cost attitudes often harms the child. Kids are better off learning to enjoying the journey—while playing hard, trying to win—win or lose. Not everyone can win all the time and not everyone deserves a trophy. That’s life. Games are a way to prepare kids for adult life. Many of those caribou will end up in caribou jail if they live as they played.
When The Race arrived, I quickly read it, as I do all picture books. Then I read it again. Then I shared it. I think The Race is a hoot. Messages aside, The Race has multi-level humor that “cracked me up.” Kids and parents will adore this book. Not only will parents not mind repeat readings, kids will read it on their own, using their imagination to “write” the text as they read. Those stories might be the best as the child makes The Race their own.
THE RACE. Text and illustration copyright © 2012 by Édouard Manceau. Translation copyright © 2014 by Sarah Quinn. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Owlkids Books, Inc., Berkeley, CA. **Originally published in France under the title La course in 2012 by Éditions Milan.
Learn more about The Race HERE.
Meet the translator, Sarah Quinn, at her website:
Also by Édouard Manceau
Since 1999, Édouard Manceau has been an author and illustrator.
He draws for the press, publishes games, and books for children from two years.
Édouard has published over a hundred children’s books so far, translated into many countries.
*The jump in review number is due to reviews never numbered from last year. Everything is correct.
If you noticed that the review number jumped up a few, you are very astute. I am not. I missed several reviews that had a title other than a book title. Noticed one, so I checked them all. Now I am on review 581. Not fudging the numbers, but rather fudging up in my counting. So sorry if this caused you any mathematical harm, as none is intended.