Bartali’s Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy’s Secret Hero

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Feb. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062908117.
Gr 4-8–Gino Bartali was a resistance hero who used his bike, his reputation as a competitive cyclist, and his fame as a Tour de France winner not only to fool the German troops who occupied Italy but also to help hundreds of families escape during World War II. Jewish Italians were desperate to flee but needed new identities to leave the country. Bartali stuffed the lifesaving papers into the tubes of his bike, then carried on his ostensible business of training for races, all the while dropping off valuable documents, covering more than 250 miles a day over mountains, through villages, and into larger cities. When he was forced to join the militia, he used his role to locate and free prisoners and kept a family hidden in his own basement. All the while, his humility and modesty prevailed: He never discussed his role in this effort, so his heroism wasn’t known until well after he died. The author uses clear, descriptive sentences that flow and paint a vivid picture. The art is striking and has an art-deco feel to it, which lends itself to the era. Each illustration shows some part or angle of Bartali’s bike, and Bartali himself, dressed in colorful biking clothes, is often in the foreground while Nazis are portrayed in darker tones in the background. Back matter includes a brief time line of Bartali’s life, a letter from his granddaughter, an author’s note, and a list of sources.
VERDICT This would be a great start for any student wanting to know more about how different people helped resist the efforts of the Nazis during World War II.

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