Well, we are going to take a trip back to Paris today, but not with Dodsworth this time. Today we will be visiting with The Mighty Lalouche, who might have lived just at the turn of the century – the 20th century, that would be. When you first see him, you might wonder…mighty? for he is a small, but nimble postman. He loved his job and he had a beautiful finch, Geneviève, to keep him company. He was a happy and content man, well almost. He only wanted an apartment with a view of the bustling new city lights!
Lalouche was distressed to learn one day that he had been replaced by, of all things, an electric autocar. Now what would he do?!?! Enter THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE determined to save his tiny apartment and home for Geneviève, he answers an advertisement for sparring partners. WHAT? You might ask yourself. How could this tiny little man spar with some of the biggest names in French boxing? Well, you will have to see for yourself.
The back story behind the book of the author and illustrator is almost as fascinating as the book itself. I have included several links so that you can read for yourself the exquisite detail that went into the TWO year process of illustrating The Mighty Lalouche! I thought it was so interesting that Matthew Olshan wanted to write a book for Sophie Blackall to illustrate, so in his words “I sneakily asked her what kinds of things she was interested in. She mentioned she liked to collect old pictures of boxers, especially extremely skinny ones with big billowing boxing trunks. As Sophie described these antique portraits, the Mighty Lalouche leaped into my imagination, complete with meticulously groomed mustache and beloved finch. The story came later: our humble postman loses his job; becomes a sparring partner to make ends meet; and discovers, much to everyone’s surprise, that he’s invincible in the ring.” Isn’t that marvelous! I love that sort of collaboration between an author and his illustrator. Blackall decided that she wanted to create the illustrations using Tatebanko, Japanese paper dioramas. To that end she drew, painted and cut out thousands of tiny pieces of paper to make Parisian streets and boxing ring crowds and Lalouche’s cozy apartment.
The Mighty Lalouche is just right for children from 5 to 8, I think, who will appreciate the story of the underdog and his determination to overcome his bit of adversity and keep a home for himself and his beloved bird!
For more on Sophie Blackall and her artwork, check out this article where she discusses her process over on HuffPost Books.