Bob Graham's first ever illustrated book, never before published, is a gently humorous take on the Tour de France with a brilliantly witty text by his brother-in-law.
Illustrator Bob Graham was born in Sydney, and studied painting, drawing and design at the Julian Ashton Art School where he met his future wife Carolyn. They had two children, Naomi and Pete, and a dog called Oscar. Bob has written and illustrated around 35 picture books, and illustrated as many again for other authors. His books are known for their charm, simplicity and humour, and have won countless awards in Australia and overseas, including five Childrens Book Council of Australia awards and the Kate Greenaway Medal.
Peter Smith was born and grew up in England, but at age 19 came to Australia with his sister Carol. Pete is a dedicated cyclist, having ridden from Sydney to Melbourne and from Sydney to the Gold Coast among other trips, and works in Abbey's bookshop in Sydney. He is Bob Graham's brother-in-law.
When Monsieur Albert Larousse reads of a “Grand Cycle Race” with a “fabulous prize to be won”, he can’t resist the temptation. Despite being sixty years of age, he decides he is fit, has a good bike, and is certainly keen on the lure of the big prize so enters the competition. Although he meets with much taunting from his young, fit rival, Francois, as well as others en route, Albert continues with the race. What are his chances of winning against such a field of Lycra clad, fitness fanatics? Only time will tell.
This story, related entirely in rhyme, is supported by the wonderful illustrations of Bob Graham. As usual, there is a touch of humour and reality added by Graham’s work, with bicycles scooting through the traffic jam as the Arc de Triomphe is passed so that one call almost imagine the blaring of car horns. The fishermen have typical French style picnic baskets, complete with the obligatory bottle of wine, as does Monsieur Albert who, oblivious to the other competitors, removes his shoes and sits down to his baguette with strawberry jam!
Containing elements of the Hare and the Tortoise, the reader certainly hopes that the protagonist will, in fact, “ride to glory” as he is such a likeable character. (One can hardly help but barrack for the underdog, Monsieur Albert.) Themes of resilience, determination, risk taking and attitudes toward competition could all be teased out to make this a great resource for teachers to use with classes of any age.
Jo Schenkel, Pilgrim School
Is age a barrier to competing in a Grand Cycling Race? Certainly not if you are Monsieur Albert Larousse, who after his morning café au lait, decides to enter the prestigious race.
With his trusty bike and supplies for the road, Albert sets off to the starting line. His main rival, Francois, is exactly what Albert isn't - young, handsome, and an experienced cyclist. However, Albert doesn't allow that to be a hindrance, reminding himself that "There's life and there's bounce in these old muscles yet!"
We follow with Albert through the streets of Paris and the French country side, up hill and down valley. As a result of 'divine intervention' in the form of a large snowball, Albert emerges the Victor.
Written as a poem, this delightful tale follows Albert's ride to glory. With its enthusiastic rhymes and vivid descriptions, this is a great story to read aloud. Bob Graham's beautiful illustrations capture Albert's effort and determination, and the attention given to the French landmarks, culture and character is to be commended. It is a witty take on the famous Tour de France.
Activities that this book lends itself to include:
• Looking at other stories written in prose. i.e. Mulga Bill
• Researching some of the French landmarks, places or past Tour de France winners
• Creating imaginary maps showing the route the cyclists rode
• Writing the dialogue between riders as the snowball approached
• Discussing personal challenge and whether age is a barrier
• Looking at a number of Bob Graham's books and examining illustration style.
Katharine York, Teacher Librarian, Chairo Christian School
Monsieur Albert, inspired by the great prizes, decides to enter the Great Cycle Race. He has all he needs--- fitness and a good bike. At the age of 60, he is a most unlikely contender and his entry is scorned by France's top rider, the young and handsome Francois....."you silly old goat! You're turning this race into some sort of joke!" and the Gendarme tells him "You're mad, Monsieur Albert, you haven't a chance!"
But persistence pays off due to an act of nature. Monsieur Albert is trialling by far up the mountain. Astounded, he watches up ahead the formation of a huge snowball which in turn obliterates the rest of the contenders, expensive bikes and all, and washes them into the sea. This act of God leaves Monsieur Albert as the lone rider to cross the finishing line. Akin to the fable The Hare and the Tortoise, this story shows that it is not always the fastest and the best who wins.
The text by Peter Smith, is made to be read aloud, as the wonderful lyrical and exciting verse carries you through the race and up over the mountain tops of France. It is an excellent example of how verse can create the atmosphere and story to enchant the reader. Full of humor and fun this inspiring book will delight children and adults alike as they endear to the character of Monsieur Albert whose zest for life proves that persistence can win in the end.
In typical Bob Graham style, the illustrations enhance the excitement and drama as the reader deciphers the intricate details in capturing an old man who is celebrating the pleasure of being alive with a hearty sense of adventure.
This inspiring book would be a welcome addition to any classroom as an excellent example of verse, story and illustrations. Useful as an introduction to France and their main event the Tour de France, the reader will also get to exercise a few simple French phases. But it's most cherishing quality is its uplifting effect it has on the reader that encourages the will to have a go.
Jill Howard, ACT
Enjoy your life and have a good go, that's what I wanted my children to know!
My favourite line in this book is 'It's true the best man did not win the race," with a touch of adult humour this book shows children resilience. Resilience is a great quality that can help children enjoy or survive life.
I read this book to my grade 1/2 class during Circle Time (a social skills and sharing program) and we made a list of qualities that Monsieur Albert has. Then we asked ourselves questions such as: How can I be more like Albert? How did Albert enjoy life? How can I show people my qualities? We went on to talk about that sometimes you may be the best, fastest and smartest but sometimes you maybe not win or things may happen that you can not control. And that is ok!
We wrote words to describe Albert and drew a picture of him. He will remind us to try our best and be happy with being ourselves. Sometimes it is nice to slow down and enjoy the process instead for looking forward to the end result!!
Stacey, St Bernard's P.S, Wangaratta
A fun, rhyming picture story for littlies, Monsieur Albert Rides to Glory hits the market while memories of the latest Tour de France are fresh in the popular mind and it’s good to have a positive story about cycling!
One up for the oldies, this book is a cycling version of the idea of the hare and the tortoise, with 60 year old M. Albert having to walk up big hills, getting his trouser leg caught in his bike chain and suffering from punctures and wet socks. But he triumphs in the end, thanks to a massive snowball that wipes out his rivals. In a nice touch though, we see him heroically assisting other en route.
I was disappointed however to see that in a children’s picture book about cycling the hero is presented riding without a helmet. No doubt kids wouldn’t miss this either.
Good clear colour pictures illustrate every page of this firmly sewn, well-bound hardback. Don’t try to download the “friendly look font” — Bob Graham has hand-lettered all of the text.
Recommended for pre-school and Early Stage One children, but don’t forget to have a conversation about the helmet issue.
Move over Babar and Madeline, here comes Monsieur Albert. French “chic” has taken a surprising turn with a new hero, Monsieur Albert. He’s 60 and off to compete in the Grand Cycle Race. He’s stowed his clean underwear, toothbrush, sunscreen and map, and challenges the field led by the French champion, millionaire François, who trains on frogs’ legs and vin ordinaire. Poor old Monsieur Albert hasn’t a chance. Or has he?
Bob Graham, established children’s book illustrator, has captured a classic soft French feel, especially in his illustrations of Paris where the race starts. There are whimsical details to keep young eyes busy and amused: the limo driver holding a racing helmet like a maître d’ with a tray, and the fisherman with beret and mobile phone, et cetera.
The fun-filled text by Peter Smith consists of witty rhyming couplets which adults and a target readership of 6 to 8 year olds will love reading aloud. Rhyming French vowels with similar sounding English vowels serves well as a rough guide to children as to how to pronounce the French words. Interestingly, the word “Albert” was never used at the end of the line, so there is no ready prescription as to whether to pronounce the name sounding the “t” as one would in English, or more like “Al-bear”, as the French do. However, the English pronunciation with the stress on the first syllable (as opposed to the second syllable in the French) works better for the meter.
Tour de force or tour de farce, this is an original take on French style. Monsieur Albert is not deterred from “having a go”, and readers may be inspired to follow suit. On your marks! You're off on a fun and original ride!
When Monsieur Albert decides to enter the Grand Cycle Race he finds he is up against some stiff opposition in the form of François, the race favourite. His preparations are simple but his desire to participate is admirable. He perseveres through adversity, a bit like the tortoise in the well loved fable “The Hare and the Tortoise”, and to his delight is pronounced the winner of the race, proving age is no barrier. Peter Smith’s rhyming writing is delightful and sure to appeal to the reader. The incident leading to his win is funny and a touch fanciful. His book is perfect for reading aloud and for older readers to read alone. The insight into the French language, culture, landmarks of Paris and Geography of France, are sure to provoke a lot of discussion and research. The book is a perfect starter for research into” The Tour de France”. As follow up to this story, children are sure to want to look at other rhyming stories and to write some of their own, as well as discuss the idea of the underdog winning and what qualities Monsieur Albert possessed and how these can be applied by them e.g. perseverance, resilience, risk taking etc. A great story not to mention the amazing illustrations by Bob Graham which are sure to promote interest in map making and drawing. Children will want to look at books written by Bob Graham as part of their author/illustrator study.
When 60-year-old Albert Larousse, sees an advertisement in the morning paper for the Grand Cycling Race in France, his interest is aroused. He is 60 years old and it would seem unlikely that he would finish the race and impossible that he could win, but the lure of a prize is tempting. Wearing his comfortable brown jacket and red scarf and taking along some fruit, bread and wine as a snack, he makes his way to the start line, ready to mount his trusty bike. Lycra-clad competitors surround him and nobody could ever believe that Monsieur Albert could beat Francois, the cycling champion of France. Or maybe he just could??
Monsieur Albert Rides to Glory is a humorous take on the Tour de France. Monsieur Albert definitely looks like the underdog in his glasses, scarf, brown suit with bike clips on the pant legs and his panniers packed with snacks, clean underwear, sunscreen and a toothbrush. (He doesn’t even wear a helmet!)
The text is entertaining and the rhyming stanzas give a rhythmic lilt. I enjoyed the inclusion of French words used occasionally in the text. The references to French landmarks and culture make good teaching points. This picture book could be used as a link in teaching units about cycling, Tour de France and the culture/language of France. I loved the story and, as always, Bob Graham's wonderfully appealing illustrations.
Claire Cheeseman, Laingholm Primary
I love the beginning of this amusing picture book. I confess to being a sucker for rhyming books (this one has more than a little resemblance to the ‘Madeline’ stories) and found it hugely enjoyable. We all love an underdog, and in true ‘hare and tortoise’ fashion, this story doesn’t disappoint.
There are many great themes reflected in the book: being prepared to have a go, regardless of the odds; doing something just for the joy of it; never giving up, even when things get tough; ‘age is no barrier’ – I’m sure you could add to this list. In this climate of disgust towards sports people who take their performance too seriously; even to the extremes of cheating in order to win, this is a great book to use as a discussion about the difference between the joy of taking part, and the need to win at any cost.
With Bob Graham as the illustrator, each page is a delight and is perfectly complementary to the text. I highly recommend ‘Monsieur Albert’ as the antidote to Lance Armstrong!
Debbie Williams, Mountain District Christian School