March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: Hero on a Bicycle | Audio

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Hero on a Bicycle. By Shirley Hughes. 3 CDs. 3:35 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2013. ISBN 978-1-4692-7493-5. $54.97.
Gr 5–8–The first novel (Candlewick, 2013) by octogenarian Shirley Hughes, the award-winning picture book author and illustrator, is set inItalyin 1944. The story follows 13-year-old Paolo, his 16-year-old sister Costanza, and their mother. The family lives in the outskirts of Nazi-occupied Florence. Their father, an anti-Fascist, fled when the Nazi’s took control, leaving the family in a politically precarious position. Paolo’s nighttime forays into the city on his bicycle have brought his family into contact with the Partisans, the Italian resistance, who ask them “in a convincing manner, made more convincing because of the gun” to help them. Told in third-person narration, the story builds in tension, skillfully shifting between the perspectives of each main character as well as the many well-developed secondary characters who add depth and understanding to an age-old question this story seeks to answer: What motivates people’s actions in times of war? Simon Vance’s incomparable vocal style is a perfect fit for this intense and suspenseful work of historical fiction. With his strong and consistently paced narration, as well as subtle and skillful character voices, Vance’s performance is both nuanced and captivating. A website ( offers additional material to supplement lesson plans or deepen book discussions. For those interested in offering students more in-depth information about the time period, other supplemental sources would be required. Highly recommended for students who enjoyed John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (David Fickling Bks., 2007) and historical or WWII fiction.–Chani Craig.ConverseMiddle School. Palmer, MA



  1. You will come across some most complicated war situations.
    They were made to motivate, persuade and influence the masses.
    The first is by talking and expressing your feelings to a trusted friend, spouse, therapist, or coach.