Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - The Mighty Lalouche

Author: Matthew Olshan
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (May 14, 2013)
Source: Purchased
Audience: Grades 2 to 5
Keywords: French History, Letter Carriers, Boxing

Description from GoodReads:
In Paris, France, there lived a humble postman named Lalouche. He was small, but his hands were nimble, his legs were fast, and his arms were strong. When his job was replaced by an electric car, he turned to boxing to support himself and his pet finch, Genevieve. But--"You? A boxer?" the fighters asked. "I could sneeze and knock you down!" Still, Lalouche refused to give up. And perhaps small Lalouche was just nimble . . . just fast . . . and just strong enough to beat his fierce competitors. This is a marvelous story, full of humor and heart, and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, winner of a New York Times Best Illustrated Award

My thoughts on the book:   
This book may be pushing the extremes of the true description of nonfiction picture book.  It is more a book of historical fiction. Though a postman named Lalouche did not really exist, French boxing did exist in the early nineteenth century.  Electric cars were being created and experimented with in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  It is this context of Paris, Frances in the late nineteenth century that author Matthew Olshan uses to create his story of a humble but very special postman.  

What would it be like if the French postal system did decide to use sporty electric cars to deliver the mail?  In The Mighty Lalouche, Olshan speculates how exactly the use of an electric car would provide an opportunity for the small, nimble and quick postman to become famous.

Lalouche did not know about boxing or what was expected of him.  Ignoring those who laughed at him, Lalouche uses his special speed and strength to become a success. 

Despite Lalouche's success in the ring, he missed his former occupation.  I love these lines from the book -

"And yet stationery stores could make him sad, and envelopes, and above all, stamps."

"In his heart, Lalouche was still a postman."

And when his boss called him to say that the electric car was not working out. Lalouche was ready to return. "And just like that, Lalouche traded in his famous gloves and booties for a humble postman's uniform."

Matthew Olshan has provided young readers with an enchanting story and pieces of history that may be less familiar.  Illustrator/artist, Sophie Blackall brings the story to life with her incredible artwork.  I have always been amazed at any author who uses paper cutting as a means of creating illustrations.  Her paper cuttings bring an extra layer and texture to The Mighty Lalouche.  Read about Sophie Blackall's process to create the artwork for The Mighty Lalouche, click here.

This is one of my favorite picture books of 2013 and just a wonderful story.  I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book from your local library or independent children's bookstore if you haven't seen it.

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