First published in 1973, The Great Boffo draws its inspiration from the golden era of bicycle racing, when road-hardened, mustachioed men wore goggles and raced over dusty unpaved roads. The author, Frank Dickens, was well known in the U.K. for his long-running comic strip Bristow, which ran for a record-setting 41 years. Dickens was an avid bicyclist, and in the 1940s had moved to Paris to pursue his dream of becoming a professional bicycle racer. When he found he could not make a living as a racer, he began selling cartoons to French magazines and newspapers, including the sports daily L'Équipe with its historic link to the Tour de France.
|The boy stared and stared. On such a machine |
one could hardly be beaten. "It is not surprising
that Boffo wins all his races," he said to himself.
The book is about a little boy who works in a wine shop and idolizes the champion bicycle racer, the Great Boffo. The boy dreams of seeing his hero when the big race comes through his town, but unfortunately he has to work, making deliveries for the shop's owner, Mr. Oscar, who has no time for enjoying bicycle races.
While the boy is out on his "heavy and awkward" delivery bicycle, carrying bottles of lemonade to a customer across town, he happens upon the feeding station for the race -- but the station is empty and the racers are approaching. Thinking fast, the boy gives them the drinks from his basket. But when one of the bottles shatters on the ground and his hero, the Great Boffo, suffers a double puncture, the boy finds he has another way to save the day, as Boffo borrows his delivery bike to get back into the race.
|"Both tyres are punctured," he said sadly. "I am out of the race, lad."|
|"The man is more important than the machine."|