________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 1. . . .September 5, 2014


The Race.

Édouard Manceau. Translated by Sarah Quinn.
Toronto. ON: Owlkids Books, 2014.
64 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-77147-055-1.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Elizabeth Marshall.

** /4



It begins with a guy, a can of paint, and a paintbrush.


This playful cautionary tale about the true meaning of success begins when an orange cartoon caribou paints a white line on the ground. What follows is a tale about a “hapless herd of caribou” that race, trick, and jostle one another to get to the finish line first.

     The six cut-paper caribou each wear a distinct racing bib and colourful running shoes. The race begins, after a false start by No.4, when the official shoots his pistol. However, the gun, like the race, itself, is not what it seems, and a “Bang!” flag pops from the barrel. Throughout, Manceau uses visual tropes that are drawn from cartoon and comics; like this one, the scene in which No. 5 tries the banana-peel trick that results in a hilarious pile up of caribou. A wide range of emotions—anger, confusion, malice, bewilderment, contentment--are conveyed through the googly eyes of the cartoonish caribou, and the malleable limbs and antlers of the characters further emphasize a comedic physicality.

internal art      The antics of the participants emphasize the absurdity of the competition, and, at one point, No. 2 drops out of the race to chart his own path. In the final two-page spread, readers see a discarded racing bib on the ground as No. 2 lounges peacefully on a hammock. As he rests, the television inside his idyllic house broadcasts the awards ceremony in which a subdued No. 6 is crowned the champion. Readers know that the clear choice is to opt out of the race, and this message is underscored by Manceau’s bright, clean, and minimalist design. However, on the whole, the images often reiterate rather than extend, contradict or complement the text.

      Some readers, especially in educational contexts, might object to the gendered language, as well as images of pistols and caribou drinking out of what look like wine bottles (even if the “guys” and the gun are meant as a playful wink at the audience). Collectors of unique and provocative picture books might want to add this one to their collection.


Elizabeth Marshall, a former elementary school teacher, researches and teaches children's literature in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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