Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle

illus. by author. 32p. Random/Schwartz and Wade. Apr. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-87007-1; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-97007-8; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98732-8. LC 2012003172.
RedReviewStarK-Gr 2—In his latest foray into childhood territory, Raschka explores the roles of adult and child in achieving one of the most challenging milestones of growing up-mastering a two-wheeler. The large, hand-lettered title framing the successful rider on the cover conveys the positive outcome, so the page turns are all about "how?" The story is narrated by an adult, presumably the father, but not limited to this relationship by text or image. The girl's thoughts are all expressed visually. When the two are picking out a new bicycle and then watching other riders, the busy pages portray colorful examples, some surrounded by washes of watercolor, others set against the white background; all are connected with small strokes that animate the compositions. Clad in an enormous, blue-striped helmet, the child is watchful, then tireless, as she practices with training wheels. The narrator admits that taking them off is "a bit scary," and the remaining scenes depict a brave girl in various stages of falling, trying, and being comforted and encouraged. In some close-ups, the heart on her shirt is askew, likely mimicking her actual pulse. Her legs, painted in thin, blue strokes, exhibit a fragile flexibility that expresses volumes. Raschka's well-chosen words, spread over several pages, admonish: "Find the courage to try it again,/again, and again… until/by luck, grace, and determination,/you are riding/a bicycle!" The artist's marvelous sequences, fluid style, and emotional intelligence capture all of the momentum and exhilaration of this glorious accomplishment.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Though "everyone" may be a bit of an exaggeration, it reflects the optimism in this straightforward account of one small, pigtailed learner's perseverance and triumph, a wobbly passage tracked from selecting a bike (from amongst a bewildering array) to a confident last-page trajectory ("And now you'll never forget how"). A grandfatherly figure's encouragement makes up the second-person text ("Find the courage to try it again, again, and again...until by luck, grace, and determination, you are riding"). With his loose watercolor images at their most fluid, Raschka depicts the adult leaning toward the child in a visual balance that bespeaks, successively, protection, urging, assistance, and commiseration (after a fall). Such Raschka techniques as emotion-conveying color and composition-propelled movement are in top form here, as he not only deconstructs what's needed, literally, to acquire this particular skill (which may be unique for its lessons on the physics of motion and the rewards of self-reliance) but also suggests the complexity of achieving balance and independence in any of life's transitions. joanna rudge long

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