February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Great Books About Bicycles

May is National Bike Month. Inspire youngsters to get outside and ride with a selection of tantalizing titles about two-wheelers. Whether celebrating a child’s triumphant mastery of this important skill, reveling in the delights of going for a spin, or providing a look at bicycling and its history, these books will get readers geared up for freewheeling fun. Use them to make a ready-for-summer bicycle book display, host a wheels-on-the-bike storytime, or as literary linchpins for a bike rodeo at your library, school, or camp.

Along a Long Road. By Frank Viva. illus. by author. Little, Brown. 2011. Trade $16.99. ISBN 978-0-316-12925-1; ebook. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-316-23568-6. PreS–Gr 2. Succinct text and stylish graphic artwork depict the wonders of a bicycle journey as a smiling youngster zooms through the countryside, cruises down city streets, speeds along a seaside thoroughfare, and then starts all over again. Children can ride along by tracing their fingers along the road to experience each twist and turn, watch roadside details flash by, and immerse their imaginations in an exhilarating excursion.

Ben Rides On. By Matt Davies. illus. by author. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. 2013. Trade $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-794-4. Gr 1–3. Gleefully mounted upon his new two-wheeler, Ben Lukin enjoys taking the long way to school (hilariously zooming through water pipes, across an aqueduct,  and over lined-up school buses à la Evel Knievel), but upon his arrival at Watson Elementary, his “gleaming new machine” is snatched by goonish third-grader Adrian Underbite. When Ben later comes across the bully in a perilous situation, he must decide whether to take his now-banged-up bike and run, or render aid. Tongue-in-cheek text and delightfully frenetic cartoon artwork deliver a witty, wise, and laugh-out-loud funny tale about doing the right thing.

Best Bike Ride Ever. By James Proimos. illus. by Johanna Wright. Dial. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3850-8. K–Gr 2. Thrilled to pieces with her new pink polka-dotted bike, an inexperienced young rider hops onboard and takes off on an exhilarating backyard jaunt, speeding over bridges, through windstorms, and even to the top of the Statue of Liberty before crashing back into reality (and her brother’s toy truck). Never fear, after time spent learning to use the brakes, Bonnie is ready for her next escapade. The spring-hued, acrylic-on-canvas paintings combine everyday details with flights of fancy to capture the freedom and excitement of a pedal-pushing spree.

Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo. By Rebecca Janni. illus. by Lynne Avril. Dial. 2012. Trade $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3734-1. PreS–Gr 2. Wearing her trademark pink Stetson, this winsome, self-styled cowgirl saddles up Beauty, her “two-wheeled horse,” and enters the Bike Rodeo at the county fair. When a rampaging goat threatens to ruin her competitor’s turn, quick-thinking Nellie Sue saves the day, demonstrating what every cowgirl knows: good sportsmanship is just as important as a blue ribbon. Tongue-twanging text and cotton-candy-colored artwork tell a tale of friendship and heart.

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle. By Chris Raschka. illus. by author. Random/Schwartz & Wade. 2013. PLB $19.99. ISNB 978-0-375-97007-8; Trade $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-87007-1; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98732-8. K–Gr 2. From choosing the perfect bike to manipulating training wheels on and off to providing hugs and patient encouragement, a loving adult helps a youngster through a challenging process until–“by luck, grace, and determination”–she is ready to soar. Filled with flowing lines and supple movement, Raschka’s exuberant illustrations depict the many ups and downs inherent in mastering this milestone and trumpet emotions from trepidation to triumph.

How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers. By Mordicai Gerstein. illus. by author. Roaring Brook. Trade $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-512-4. Gr 1–3. Determined to cheer up the sad-looking moon, a big-dreaming youngster presents a 24-step instruction manual to accomplish the title task–a venture that utilizes 2000 used truck inner tubes, 238,900 miles of garden hose, a ship’s anchor, and of course, a trusty two-wheeler–and invites readers to give it a whirl. Gerstein’s deadpan text and funny-bone-tickling artwork offer an ebullient ode to imagination and oddball inventiveness.

Pedal It! How Bicycles Are Changing the World. By Michelle Mulder. Orca. 2013. Trade $19.95. ISBN 978-1-4598-0219-3. Gr 3–6. Beginning with a lively history of two-wheelers, this engaging overview delves into the current-day role of bicycles–as a leisure-time activity, an environmentally and health-friendly means of transportation, and an essential apparatus for empowering people across the globe to improve their lives. Archival images and crisp, well-chosen, full-color photos show an array of bikes (including a sustainable bamboo cycle made in Ghana) and their many uses (as ambulance in Namibia, wood-hauling vehicle in Malawi, and pedal-powered blender in Guatemala).

Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen. By Cari Best. illus. by Christine Davenier. Farrar. 2006. Trade $17.99. ISBN 9780374363864. K–Gr 2. Sally Jean is heartbroken when she outgrows her cherished bicycle and longtime companion, Flash, and is left without a set of wheels. However, with the help of a junk-collecting neighbor and her own ingenuity and determination, this bicycle-loving youngster is soon back in business. Sprightly artwork and jubilant text introduce a lovable can-do heroine.

Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History. By Sue Stauffacher. illus. by Sarah McMenemy. Knopf. 2011. PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94442-0; Trade $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84442-3; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-307-98248-3. Gr 1–5. Captivated by the latest craze and an innate need for speed, a young woman threw caution (and late-19th-century social expectations) to the wind to follow her dream, initiating a physically demanding bicycle-training regime (rather than the slow and stately style of riding recommended for young ladies), sewing and sporting a practical but body-clinging suit (oh, the scandal!), and entering and winning races to become a “whirling sensation.” Spirited text and dynamic touched-with-nostalgia illustrations introduce a courageous and forward-pedaling champion.

Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way. By Sue Macy. National Geographic. 2011. Trade $18.95. ISBN 978-1-4263-0761-4. Gr 5–8. Macy examines how bicycles became all the rage in America in the 1880s and ‘90s and opened up new horizons for women who were used to living under confining social, physical, and economic constraints. Groundbreaking individuals are profiled throughout, primary-source quotes give voice to contemporary opinions and insights, and the attractively laid-out pages are packed with colorful reproductions of 19th-century photos, advertisements, and journals. A thoroughly researched, compellingly written, and fascinating ride through history. Click here for an interview with the author.

Do you have a favorite book about bicycles? Please share titles below in our comment section.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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