restricted access The Great Race (review)
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O'Malley, Kevin. The Great Race; written and illus. by Kevin O'Malley. Walker, 2011. [32p]. Library ed. ISBN 978-0-8027-2159-4 $17.89 Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-8027-2158-7 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R 6-9 yrs.

Lever Lapin, a mustachioed rabbit in a velvet smoking jacket, is the world's greatest runner, and he's got an ego to match. Nate Tortoise, on the other hand, is a simple and humble tortoise who just wants to eat a meal at his favorite restaurant without having to hear another word about Lapin ("I heard Lever can walk on water," he overhears at the next table). This original take on "The Tortoise and the Hare" finds the two matched against each other in a foot race and, as in most versions, the tortoise proves victorious. In an appealing twist, Lapin loses because he gets caught up "kissing the ladies and signing autographs," and this gentle poke at celebrity mania contemporizes the story. The final spread finds Nate peacefully eating a meal while reading the punny headline in that day's paper: "Better Nate than Lever." While the text is a bit lengthy, this is a funny take on a familiar tale. O'Malley focuses his attention on developing the protagonists' opposing personalities, and the resulting characterizations, both visual and textual, are definitely entertaining. The line-and-watercolor illustrations are composed mostly in gentle earth tones, with shadowy browns, greens, and grays predominating; facial expressions are craftily composed and full of emotional information. This would be a [End Page 533] good choice for sharing fables with a slightly older crowd as well as an entertaining selection for comparative fable studies.