The Great Race by Kevin O'Malley

Lynn: I’ve always cheered for the underdog (as can be seen by my life-long support of the Chicago Cubs) and I think a lot of kids share my tendency to root for the little guy.  The tortoise and the hare is a favorite tale for both me and the focus group and The Great Race (Walker 2011) has surged to the front of the pack for us.

Media darling Lever Lapin is the greatest runner in the world – and he’s the first to tell that to everyone who will listen.  Fans cater to his over-sized ego, the ladies swoon and it just gets to be too much for Nate the Tortoise who just wants to enjoy his meal without hearing about Lever Lapin!  “I mean, really, he’s just a runner,” grumbles Nate to himself, “I bet I could probably beat him in a race.”  Unfortunately Nate grumbles just a little too loudly and Lever who has just swaggered into the restaurant hears.  And we’re off.  The story may be familiar but O’Malley gives it a pun-laden spin that makes it a delight to read aloud.  Nate exercises in preparation but the rabbit surges ahead.  Lapin, with all the attitude of an NBA star, stops off at La Gaganspew for a little snack and his adoring fans are his downfall.  Nate chugs on, wins the day and revels in the headline that proclaims, “Better Nate than Lever!”

Even if you could resist the puns, O’Malley’s illustrations will win you over.  He takes full advantage of the long design of this book, often using a street-level, close-up perspective that heightens the hilarity.   Lapin,  a mustached, cravat-wearing egoist is the perfect foil for Nate, the resentful soul who gets moved to the worst table in the restaurant.  Best with slightly older readers who know the story and can appreciate the puns, this would also be terrific for classroom use with kids studying fables.

Cindy: I love puns so this book is a winner with me. And in addition to the puns there are great exchanges like this:

While he ate, Lever Lapin talked to a group of reporters. “I find myself fascinating,” he said. “I am so beautiful that when I look at myself I scream with joy. It is not easy to be me.”

“Who does this hare think he is?” Nate said under his breath. “He’s so dumb, if it were raining soup, he’d head outside with a fork.”

And later…

“Lapin, you’re as sharp as a marble. You’ve got the brains of a four-year-old, and I’ll bet he’s glad to be rid of it.”

As much as I love this book and its delightful illustrations, it makes me a little uneasy. I see way too much of myself in Lever and a lot of Lynn’s fine qualities in Nate….hmmm….something to think about. I should go make some steady progress on getting some blog posts ready for her. 🙂



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "The Great Race by Kevin O'Malley"

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  1.' Kevin O'Malley says:

    Thanks for the kind words.
    I’m delighted you enjoyed the book!

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