Review of Girl on a Motorcycle

Girl on a Motorcycle
by Amy Novesky; illus. by Julie Morstad
Primary, Intermediate    Viking    48 pp.    g
9/20    978-0-593-11629-6     $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-11630-2    $10.99

This picture-book biography of the first woman to complete a solo motorcycle trip around the world begins in 1973 Paris. Wishing to see and write about “Elsewhere,” the titular “girl” (French journalist Anne-France Dautheville, unnamed until the back matter) flies with her motorcycle to Montreal. From there, she rides to Anchorage; flies to Tokyo and then Bombay; rides until her bike breaks down and then takes a train to Delhi; and so on until, tens of thousands of miles and four months later, she returns to Paris. Novesky’s lyrical text, full of lush sensory detail, emphasizes the character’s wonder but also her determination: “Ribbons of dust unfurl behind her. Dirt stings her eyes. Sun burns her skin. Air vibrates with heat. She falls often…But she always gets back up.” The retro 1970s palette and travel-poster aesthetic of Morstad’s pencil, ink, and digital illustrations capture the very different types of beauty the motorcyclist encounters in bustling cities, welcoming villages, and wide-open landscapes. One particularly breathtaking spread portrays the woman’s small form floating in a luminous teal pool far below the vast, jewel-toned swirls of the aurora borealis. Based on Dautheville’s own writings (especially Une demoiselle sur une moto, 1973), this is a lovely tribute to both the pioneering motorcyclist and the joys of the open road.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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