By Pamela Pease
Paintbox Press, 2009
$36, ages 9 and up, 20 pages
If your child refers to his bike helmet as his "lid" or dreams of "bagging a peak" in a road race, he'll be fascinated with this stunning pop-up about the Tour de France.
Worthy of propping up on a shelf, this coffee table-sized book covers all the basics of the race, from terrain to etiquette, using images that rise from the fold, pull out from the page and spin to reveal facts.
There's even a simple map of France overlaid with erasable acetate so your child can plot the route of the greatest cycling race on Earth, then wipe it clean in time for next year's tour.
Other highlights include a time trial demo, in which a racer leaning over his bicycle pedals as fast as he can over the course of 1 or 2 minutes.
As your child pulls the tab out of the right side of the page, a paper cutout of a cyclist races ahead a few inches, triggering his back wheel to spin and the seconds counter ahead of him to advance.
One of the most visual elements is a two-page fold-out of Paris with mini pop-ups of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triumph, as packs of cyclists sweep past the Seine River toward the finish line.
Kept simple to appeal to novices as well as avid riders, the book begins with a two-page pop-up of eight bicycles arcing over the fold.
Below the arc, Pease summarizes the history of the bike, from the first cycle, the 1816 "Hobby Horse," a pedal-less invention that you pushed forward with your feet to the recumbent bike, which looks a bit like a pedal-driven lawn chair.
By book's end, your child knows the basic rules of the race and its stages, has an understanding of terms such as "drafting" (the strategy of riding closely behind other cyclists to reduce drag), and appreciates the role of teams in supporting their fastest riders.
He's also learned fun facts, including the reason why a French rider usually wins the stage of the race that coincides with Bastille Day, and how grueling the 2,235-mile ride can be as it climbs through treacherous terrain and spills into countrysides.
For example, he learns that at the end of a tour, racers sometimes have to breathe as hard as if they were still pedaling to get enough oxygen back in their bodies or that they can lose the equivalent of 15 cups of water from their bodies each day.
I can't help think that "Dave," the small-town teen obsessed with road racing in the Oscar-winning 1979 film, "Breaking Away," would have loved this book, but you don't have to speak, think and act like a competitive cyclist to enjoy flipping through.
Even armchair fans of the tour and kids who just enjoy leisurely pedaling their feet will appreciate the simple, bold graphics that rise off the page and look as if they were pulled from racing posters.
The 97th annual Tour de France, still more popular than the Super Bowl and World Series, left Rotterdam Saturday and will end in Paris Sunday, July 25.
If your cyclist also enjoys board games, check out "Leader 1" by Ghenos Games, which simulates the challenges of a real bike race.
Five teams of three bikers advance their pieces on hexagonal tracks as they gather energy tokens, pass feed zones, navigate terrain and decide when to make a breakaway.