Review of She Rides like the Wind: The Story of Alfonsina Strada

She Rides like the Wind: The Story of Alfonsina Strada
by Joan Negrescolor; illus. by the author; trans. from Portuguese by Jethro Soutar
Primary    Little Gestalten    48 pp.    g
8/20    978-3-89955-853-1    $19.95

Spare first-person text describes Alfonsina Strada’s early childhood explorations with a bicycle and lightly sketches her groundbreaking career as a female cyclist in early-twentieth-century Italy. Creating chaos wherever she cycled, and at first dressing as a boy, Strada soon throws off her trousers, hat, and suspenders — shown in a striking double-page spread — to openly ride as a girl. Townspeople react with shock, leaping out of the way as she barrels, carefree, through crowds. The text is extremely brief, providing more of a peek into an intriguing life than actual biographical information. Major life events, including the notable fact that she was the only woman to have ridden one of cycling’s three major stage races, are not included in the text (end matter would have been welcome for readers wanting to learn more about a fascinating character, but no additional information is provided). The illustrations, in a limited palette of bold oranges, yellows, blues, and greens, echo the style of the screen-printed flyers for cycling races that appear in the background through the book. Animals in the illustrations seem fascinated by Strada, their gaze emphasizing her wildness as she describes how riding and racing allow her to be free. A compelling, if incomplete, introduction to a little-known pioneer in women’s sports.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Laura Koenig

Laura Koenig is the Team Leader for Central Library Children's Services at the Boston Public Library.

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