Bike On, Bear!

Bike On, Bear! illus. by Kristyna Litten. 32p. ebook available. S. & S./Aladdin. Jun. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481405065.
K-Gr 2—"Bear is no ordinary cub" begins this writerly story replete with puns, a sound narrative structure, and funny moments that will make kids cheer the protagonist along. His flaw is stage center: he can't ride a bike. He aces school, especially mathematics, has a helpful nature, and is a budding gymnast, but for him, biking is "unbearable." He questions whether it is a lack of intelligence, or a lack of confidence. His mother sends him to the library because you can "learn anything there," and he finds a how-to book. When a young goat is getting carried away by a fierce costal wind, Bear finds the opportunity to put all his knowledge of science, math, and gymnastics into one tour-de-force to save the kid in danger. There is a small-town sensibility here, yet with a background of historic buildings and the connotation of a city, there is depth to the sense of place. The palette is exquisite, with pale oranges and aqua blues, with added retro touches of background textures such as graph paper. The cartoon-style illustrations are gentle in nature and detailed enough to interest readers.
VERDICT Fans of Kate DiCamillo will enjoy this book that encourages students to become well-rounded, and demonstrates how athletic, social, and academic skills can be applied in unexpected ways.

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