Pop-Up Tour de France

Reviewed by Gina Morey Risemberg (2012)

Pop-up Tour de France is a simple success. This delightfully illustrated book touches on the basics of the Tour, its stages, and its heroes in a simple way without talking down to the reader.

In the world of bicycling literature, I am used to wordy, dense books. Cracking the cover means submerging oneself deeply into the micro-specifics of the topic in hand. History, biography, catalog of geometric forms, wheel building—you know what I'm talking about. The precision and mortal seriousness is sometimes on par with law journals. But there is a lot to talk about.

Bicycle racing alone is immensely complex. Trying to get your arms around the science, technology, medicine, and money involved can leave you exhausted. That's why these texts exist. But often these books are too much, and getting lost in the minutia is to lose the flying spirit that comes with doing—mounting up and riding your bike.

Fortunately exceptions to the rule exist, and this book is one of them. Author Pamela Pease takes the path less traveled. She uses the symbol of bicycle racing—the Tour de France—and captures its essence: celebration. To achieve this she leverages the mainstay of K-5 education, the pop-up book!

Relax. There is a reason why the pop-up book remains an intragal part of education—and grown-ups as much as kids will find this one equally useful and delightful. It works by engaging you physically in the message. And Pop-up Tour de France's tried-and-true formula of flip, push, pull, spin cannot fail to bring a smile to your face.

But Pop-up Tour de France succeeds for another reason: it truly informs. For those of us who do not follow this iconic race obsessively, this book is the perfect primer. It takes eight flips of the page to get through the entire book, and afterwards any novice will know who the famous Belgian is (Merckx), what the many functions of the race bus are, and what the notorious mountain stages are like. Keep it handy during the race, and you can look up what the Flamme Rouge is, what team Henri Pelissier rode for, or when the feed bag is distributed. (Do you know the answers?)

The overall design is impressive. Cover art, illustrations, and photographs (Including a wonderful collection of vintage advertising posters) lend energy to the book and are as engaging as the pop-up graphics themselves. Together everything works together to compel the narration forward. By the time you get to page fourteen you feel somehow better informed though you didn't notice it happening.

In a way, the pop-up-book is the perfect vehicle for talking about all bicycle racing. Neither can progress without the interaction between person and technology. In both cases, the sheer simplicity of this relationship prevents the activity from bogging down. I applaud Ms. Pease for this excellent effort.

Pop-Up Tour de France
By Pamela Pease
14 pages, hardcover
$36, available in English and French
Published by Paintbox Press, 2009

Reviewed by Gina Morey Risemberg