Germano Zullo, Author, Albertine, Illustrator , illus. by Albertine. Kane/Miller $13.95 (28p) ISBN 978-1-929132-35-5

With perfect poker-face kookiness, a Swiss team chronicles how an indefatigable, bicycle-loving bovine named Marta becomes a racing champion. Certain that her owner, Monsieur Gruyere, is too cheesy to buy her a two-wheeler, Marta builds one with parts scavenged from the town dump. Then she patiently teaches herself to ride. "She fell down. A lot. She scraped her hooves. She scraped her horns. She even scraped her tail." (This funny multi-drawing spread also contributes new words to the blooper vocabulary, such as "paf" and "spotch.") Albertine's watercolor-and-ink drawings combine an elegant fine black line with a nonchalantly loopy sensibility. Marta's tiny eyes radiate a cross-eyed determination, and none of the other bikers looks askance at her (perhaps because so many of them have the same chunky physique). Throughout the illustrations, signage appears in its original French—from "Poissonnier" on a fish delivery truck to "Arrivee" at the bike race finish—adding a nifty cosmopolitan touch. Although the trend-setting Marta is ready to move on at story's end ("If everyone is going to ride bicycles, I'll have to find something else," she says, as her fellow herd members balance on two wheels), youngsters will rally for a repeat rendezvous with this slyly funny heroine who refuses to be cowed. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/21/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
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