Podium Power! The Race by Edouard Manceau
EVERYONE LINES UP..., NICE AND STRAIGHT.
THE FIRST GUY FIRES THE PISTOL, AND EVERYONE RUNS AWAY.
No, It's not a bank heist in the wild, wild west. The First Guy is actually trying to start a race, and the other guys are a little slow on the uptake, one of them running away in fear at the sight of the starting pistol. But at last the race is on.
The runners all look alike, oval heads, jug-like bodies, four limbs, one pair with colored athletic shoes, all with seemingly flexible antlers streaming behind them, and all with numbers on their singlets. But despite their similarities, they are very different.
One guy takes off, full speed, clearly not pacing himself, determined to win. Not only that, but he's a mean-eyed cheat, as well. As soon as he gets far enough ahead, he drops a slippery banana peel on the track, with the expected result--a pile-up of his competitors!
The medics rush in and patch up the survivors, and the survivors rush off, looking determined. But as it turns out, they're no better than Banana-Peel Guy. They readily hitch a ride on a passing truck and capture a loose kite for an, er, lift toward the finish line. Mr. Banana Peel comes along, only because he gets tangled in the dangling kite string.
After a stop at the water station, the Guys are at it again, running flat out, except when they stop to set traps for the runners behind them.
All but a few.
THEY WONDER WHY THEY STARTED RUNNING IN THE FIRST PLACE.
The quitter guys horse around having fun, but soon settle down, building a house, making gardens, and living their lives, while the other runner guys keep running until finally one guy crosses the finish line.
EVERYONE SAYS HE WON.
The winner gets the high podium, the flowers, and media attention, and the marching band plays him some anthem or other.
But the final page shows one of the guys who quit, happy in his hammock among his flowers, while his TV plays, the awards ceremony unwatched, inside his cozy house. Word is that the rest of the runners are losers.
BUT THAT'S... JUST WHAT THEY SAY.
Author Edouard Manceau turns a hairy eyeball on the win-at-any-cost competitive sports organizations in his latest, The Race (Owlkids Books, 2014). His racing guys are apparently caribou, befitting the origin of this Canadian import, certainly well-suited to the sport, but Manceau finds his sport in poking fun at the dirty tricks and competition between his little cross-country runners. Facial expressions and their very flexible antlers in the artist's cut-paper collages provide all the comic body language needed to show up the errors of their dishonest ways, in Manceau's humorous little look at the true meaning of living well.
As they say... it's the best revenge!
Manceau is also the author of the lauded and lovely Windblown (see my 2013 review here).