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Signs of springtime: bicycles


The snow is mostly gone, but here’s how we know it’s really springtime in Boston!

While we’re waiting on those bicycles, here are some books about them. Reviews are from the Horn Book Guide Online. LIST UPDATED 5/17/19.


Picture Books

barton_my bikeBarton, Byron My Bike
40 pp. Greenwillow (HarperCollins Children’s Books Group) 2015. ISBN 978-0-06-233699-6

PS Primary colors, simple shapes, and brief text introduce Tom, who is riding his bicycle to work. The pictures and then the text (he sees “monkeys / and acrobats / and tigers…”) gradually reveal Tom’s destination — with a finishing twist. Throughout this preschooler-perfect picture book, Barton displays awareness of and respect for his audience.

boelts_bikelikeBoelts, Maribeth A Bike like Sergio’s
40 pp. Candlewick 2016. ISBN 978-0-7636-6649-1

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. When a woman in the grocery store drops a hundred-dollar bill, Ruben (whose family struggles to pay the bills) starts to believe his wish for a bike might come true. Jones’s watercolor, pencil, and ink illustrations depict Ruben’s family life as no-frills but happy. Boelts conveys the lure of owning what other kids own, alongside the inevitable guilt that Ruben feels before the realistic resolution.

Clarke, Maxine Beneba The Patchwork Bike
40 pp. Candlewick 2018. ISBN 978-1-5362-0031-7
Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd. A child in an unnamed village “where we live inside our mud-for-walls home” describes the diversions of daily life, including zooming about with “my crazy brothers” on a “patchwork bike” built of scrap. Clarke’s spare, mellifluous language is hand-lettered on Rudd’s rough, tactile paintings composed of heavy acrylic paint on recycled cardboard. The illustration choices reflect the book’s theme–exposing the harsh reality of life while acknowledging the resilience that comes from homemade joy.

Davies, Matt Ben Rides On
32 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2013. ISBN 978-1-59643-794-4

Gr. K–3 Davies puts his wild cartooning imagination to good use in this book about a boy, his bicycle, and a bully. When Ben gets to school, bully Adrian Underbite takes his bike — then rides it over a cliff. Only Ben can rescue him. Will he? Each line of Davies’s work — both text and illustrations — is filled with motion or humor, and usually both.

doi_chirriDoi, Kaya Chirri & Chirra
40 pp. Enchanted Lion 2016. ISBN 978-1-59270-199-5

PS Translated by Yuki Kaneko. In this Japanese import, Chirri and Chirra take a day-long bike ride through a pastoral world. Amenities appear just when needed; ultimately, the sisters arrive at a forest hotel in time for an animal symphony concert. Adult humans are absent, leaving room for the fox waiter, the pig flautist, and all the other animals of this peaceable kingdom. Crayon/pastel illustrations in gentle, saturated colors capture the girls’ summer idyll.

gerstein_howtobicycleGerstein, Mordicai How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers: A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps
40 pp. Roaring Brook 2013. ISBN 978-1-59643-512-4

Gr. K–3 How would you get to the moon? To begin with, a giant slingshot fashioned from inner tubes can propel a line of garden hoses, anchoring it to the moon with a flagpole arrow. The second-person instructions are ingeniously detailed, brimming with an unfettered mix of real and pseudo information, as are the precisely imagined and neatly rendered illustrations.

isabella_redbicycleIsabella, Jude The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle
32 pp. Kids Can 2015. ISBN 978-1-77138-023-2

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Simone Shin. CitizenKid series. North American youth Leo donates his bicycle to an organization that provides bikes to Africans. First, young Alisetta uses it to improve her family’s life. Eventually, Big Red is repurposed as a bicycle ambulance. Straightforward, specific prose and upbeat illustrations give readers a sense of how bicycles can be life-changing in other parts of the world; back matter offers a detailed list of ways to help.

Pett, Mark The Girl and the Bicycle
40 pp. Simon (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing) 2014. ISBN 978-1-4424-8319-4
E-book ISBN 978-1-4424-8320-0

Gr. K–3 Hoping to earn enough to buy a bike, a girl with little brother in tow, embarks on moneymaking gambits. Her early attempts — lemonade stand, toy sale, couch cushion searches — come to naught…and then there’s a twist. The muted color palette and retro touches complement the old-fashioned tone of this wordless book. The spare illustrations offer a surprising wealth of narrative nuance.

Proimos, James The Best Bike Ride Ever
32 pp. Dial 2012. ISBN 978-0-8037-3850-8

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Johanna Wright. While her parents are still delivering their safety warnings, Bonnie rides off on her new bike, climbing over bridges and mountains and visiting the Grand Canyon. The homey ink and acrylic landscapes show that the whole adventure takes place in Bonnie’s backyard. Energy springs off the page — it’s no wonder Bonnie wants to ride without training wheels…or even training.

Ransome, James E. New Red Bike
32 pp. Holiday 2011. ISBN 978-0-8234-2226-5

Gr. K–3 Young Tom is excited to ride his new bike to pal Sam’s house. While waiting at Sam’s door, Tom’s bike disappears (temporarily). The spare text will hold readers’ attention — “He zooms down the hill / around the curve / and back up” — while unfussy watercolor and pencil illustrations with lots of white space enhance accessibility.

Raschka, Chris Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle
32 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2013. ISBN 978-0-375-87007-1
LE ISBN 978-0-375-97007-8

Preschool, Gr. K–3 A grandfatherly figure’s encouragement speaks in this second-person account of one small, pigtailed learner’s perseverance and triumph, a wobbly passage tracked from selecting a bike to a confident last-page trajectory. With his loose watercolor images at their most fluid, Raschka depicts the adult leaning toward the child in a visual balance that bespeaks protection, assistance, and commiseration.

Viva, Frank Along a Long Road
40 pp. Little 2011. ISBN 978-0-316-12925-1

Gr. K–3 A cyclist journeys along a seaside road into a tunnel, across a bridge, through a town (where he bumps into an errant apple and momentarily stops), and around an amusement park — before looping back home. Readers will enjoy tracing with their fingers the thin tan road (slightly textured), which, page after page, is a continuous path. The spare text is pleasantly rhythmic.



amstutz_bicycle basics let it rollAmstutz, Lisa J. Bicycle Basics: Let It Roll!
24 pp. Capstone 2014. LE ISBN 978-1-4765-3964-5
E-book ISBN 978-1-4765-6027-4

Amstutz, Lisa J. Bike Safety: A Crash Course
24 pp. Capstone 2014. LE ISBN 978-1-4765-3965-2
E-book ISBN 978-1-4765-6028-1

Gr. K–3 Pebble Plus: Spokes series. These primers are good introductions to the sport as well as to bicycling safety, history, and mechanical basics. Clearly focused on promoting the recreational fun of cycling, the books feature large, full-color photographs with a variety of children and adults. Safety tips and instructions are simple, thorough, and stress the importance of being self-reliant. Reading list. Glos., ind.

drummond_pedal powerDrummond, Allan  Pedal Power: How One Community Became the Bicycle Capital of the World
40 pp. Farrar 2017. ISBN 978-0-374-30527-7

Gr. K–3 Drummond (Energy Island; Green City) takes young readers to Amsterdam, a city that turned automobile- and carbon monoxide–clogged streets into bicycle- and family-friendly boulevards. His straightforward text and near-impressionistic illustrations show citizens, led by activist Maartje Rutten, who took to the streets (on bicycles) in the 1970s to protest constructing more roads for automobiles. As a united community, they effected (worldwide) change. Bib.

macy_wheelsofchangeMacy, Sue Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)
96 pp. National Geographic Books 2011. ISBN 978-1-4263-0761-4
LE ISBN 978-1-4263-0762-1

Gr. 4–6 Macy offers a solid argument for the bicycle’s part in advancing women’s suffrage in the U.S. Along the way, she profiles notable individuals and emphasizes just how bold women were to defy conventions. Each chapter is followed by a two-page section that touches on late-nineteenth-century cycling culture. Accompanying sidebars and informatively captioned archival photos, reproductions, and mocked-up newspaper clippings enhance the narrative. Reading list, timeline, websites. Ind.

mulder_pedalitMulder, Michelle Pedal It!: How Bicycles Are Changing the World
48 pp. Orca 2013. ISBN 978-1-4598-0219-3

Gr. 4–6 Orca Footprints series. Divided into four chapters, this book looks at the history and anatomy of the bicycle, and explores reasons for its use, such as low cost and environmental impact. Well-captioned photos that show the unusual ways in which bikes have been put to work — from bicycle soccer in Europe to bicycle ambulances in Namibia — illustrate the accessible text. Reading list, websites. Ind.

stauffacher_tillieStauffacher, Sue Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History
40 pp. Knopf 2011. ISBN 978-0-375-84442-3
LE ISBN 978-0-375-94442-0

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Sarah McMenemy. Swedish immigrant Tillie Anderson fell in love with cycling, seeing the bicycle as a means of mobility and freedom. Placing her accomplishments within historical context, this breezy picture book biography follows Tillie’s journey as she starts a physical regime and fashions an outfit of (gasp!) pants. Constant curves in McMenemy’s cheery gouache, ink, and paper collage art convey a sense of motion.

thompson_emmanuelThompson, Laurie Ann Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
32 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2015. ISBN 978-0-449-81744-5 LE ISBN 978-0-449-81745-2 Ebook ISBN 978-0-449-81746-9

Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Yeboah, born in rural Ghana in 1977 with only one functional leg, grew up to become a national hero and disabilities activist. Learning to ride a bike brought him to the national stage: he embarked on a 400-mile bicycle ride through Ghana, spreading his message that “being disabled does not mean being unable.” The text is clearly written; mixed-media illustrations match its upbeat tone.




Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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