cover image The Mighty Lalouche

The Mighty Lalouche

Matthew Olshan, illus. by Sophie Blackall. Random/Schwartz & Wade, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-86225-0

Lalouche does not start out mighty in the least. A humble postman in 19th-century Paris, “He was small, Lalouche, and rather bony,” writes Olshan (Finn), whose effortless prose has a giddy Gallic lilt throughout. And yet, Lalouche’s “hands were nimble, his legs were fast, and his arms were strong,” qualities that serve him well when he is replaced on his route by an electric autocar and instead finds employment as sparring partner at the Bastille Boxing Club. Soon, the wiry, speedy Lalouche is a boxing champion and the toast of tout-Paris, vanquishing such deliciously named foes as the Anaconda, the Pointillist, and the Misanthrope. It’s easy to imagine a book about an unprepossessing civil servant and the belle epoque craze for la boxe française as having a rarified appeal at best, but Olshan and Blackall (Edwin Speaks Up) have created a bona fide knockout. Lalouche is an endearingly oddball hero, and Blackall takes her always-exquisite ink-and-watercolor artwork to another level, creating three-dimensional cut-out scenes that have the intensity of silent film and the magic of an exquisitely crafted toy theater. C’est formidable! Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Nancy Gallt, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (May)