From Trike to Bike: 16 Picture Books About Learning to Ride Bicycles | Milestones

Transitioning from a three-wheeler to a two-wheeler is both terrifying and thrilling (for kids and their grownups). Here are 16 picture books that will help children look forward to the experience. 

Animated gif of all of the covers with a child on a bicycle superimposed, speeding by.


Transitioning from a three-wheeler to a two-wheeler is both terrifying and thrilling (for kids and their grownups). Here are 16 picture books that will help children look forward to the experience. 


My Bike by Byron Barton. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. ISBN 9780062336996. 
PreS-Gr 1—In this tale of a boy and his bike, Tom rides past cars, trucks, and buses to his place of employment: a circus, where he dons face paint and becomes a clown. Barton once more shows great intuition for what appeals to children. Brightly colored, flat, digitally created illustrations have a joyful, childlike quality and soothing repetitiveness. Though simple (a face is depicted with two circles for eyes and a semicircle for a mouth), these cheery images contain enough detail to catch the attention of very young readers. The accessible, short sentence structure coupled with a large font gives this book a wide audience. VERDICT An ideal option for story time and potentially a primer for those making their first forays into independent reading. A delight.

Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen by Cari Best. illus. by Christine Davenier. Farrar. ISBN 9780374363864.
K-Gr 2–As a toddler, Sally Jean rides on the back of her mother's bicycle. She graduates to a tricycle at age two. By age four, she has her own yard-sale bike with training wheels. Those baby wheels come off the next year and she becomes Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen, who rides like a pro on her bike named Flash. By the time Sally Jean is eight, she has outgrown her beloved Flash. Her parents can't afford a new bike, but her neighbor, a junk collector, comes to her rescue. In exchange for cleaning his yard, he gives Sally Jean used parts. Soon she is repairing other kids' bikes, but still doesn't have one of her own until the child comes up with an idea. Davenier's ink-and-watercolor illustrations are light and airy and convey a variety of emotions and delightful details. VERDICT Sally Jean is a real charmer, and children will appreciate her resourcefulness and tenacity. 

Together We Ride by Valerie Bolling. illus. by Kaylani Juanita. Chronicle. ISBN 9781797212487.
PreS-K–A young Black girl learns to ride a two-wheeled bicycle with her father guiding and cheering her on. She rides, falls, and bravely tries again. When she’s steady, the whole family goes out for a ride (everyone wears a helmet). Accompanying the spare, rhyming text that echoes the cadence of Stick & Stone by Beth Ferry, the illustrations bring the story to life in detail, setting it in the Bay Area of California with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day. The moment of drama is depicted with compelling sequential illustrations of the girl wobbling and crashing with wavy lines around her bike tires, but in the following spread, her father hugs her and waits for her to calm down and decide what to do. Even without dialogue, it’s clear he is as pumped as she is about her perseverance in acquiring a new skill; even the dog jumps for joy. VERDICT A positive portrayal of a father/daughter relationship on the day of a milestone; a good addition for all picture book collections.

Ben Rides On by Matt Davies. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781596437944.
Gr 1–3—"Now that he had the bicycle of his dreams, Ben Lukin loved going to school." And what adventures he has en route: tunneling through water pipes, zipping over aqueducts, leaping over a stream bed filled with sharks. Does this sound like a circuitous route to class? You bet it does. Once he arrives at Watson Elementary, Ben must face Adrian Underbite, world's largest third grader. This witty and wonderful story revolves around Ben, Adrian, and Ben's bike and has a lot to say—in sometimes delightfully sophisticated words—about bullying, charity, and redemption. Davies's cartoons are simply the bees' knees. Facial expressions, gestures, postures, perspectives: all conspire, with a ragged, raucous elegance, to make Ben Rides On an exceptional, and exceptionally likable, tale.

 I Did It! by Michael Emberley. Holiday House. (I Like to Read Comics). ISBN 9780823446513.
PreS-1–The thrill and trepidation of trying something new is explored in this unpanelled graphic story. A catlike critter in striped pajamas tries their hand at childhood skills like building block towers and scaling trees, resulting in frustrating failures. The critter is undeterred, or perhaps spurred to action by frustration, and riding a bicycle becomes the story’s central challenge. Emberley’s illustrations wobble, march, and scale the blank pages to create a sense of movement, and the pencil-etched cast feels loved and familiar. The text is comprised of a litany of variations on the title, expressive while spare, ideal for newly independent readers. VERDICT Pairing animated, thoughtful illustrations and simple text with a story focused on determination, this book is a perfect pick for new readers, both nervous and brave.

Me gusta mi bici by A.G Ferrari. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823451920. SP.
PreS-Gr 1–On a busy highway, a black-haired girl pedals her bicycle with all her might. The road has all types of vehicles, a yellow three-story bus filled with animal passengers, a blue limousine with a shark passenger, a red car driven by a dog, and a cheese truck driven by a mouse. This Spanish edition of I Like My Bike offers a clever and lighthearted plot highlighting ways to defeat traffic congestion. Ferrari builds a straightforward narrative with one-line black text repeating the phrase “me gusta” or “I like” while providing the names of the different types of motor vehicles found in this story. The artwork conveys the text with humor and digitally enhanced curved-line pencil drawings that supplement a sense of movement. The book’s anthropomorphism is reinforced with smiling driver animals who interact with humans participating in the story with expressive attitudes. This would be a great choice for preschool story times about motor vehicles. VERDICT A Spanish-language early reader with lively and humorous illustrations.

Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins. illus. by Zachariah OHora. ISBN 9781452159324.
PreS-Gr 2—Higgins's latest offering is a fun story of two bicycle enthusiasts who accidentally meet and develop a friendship. Maurice owns a lemonade stand on wheels, while Lotta rides around collecting sticks to distribute from the basket on her bike. When the two crash and are left to manage on foot, a crafty Sid intervenes and saves the day. The narrative is lyrical and charming. OHora's acrylic illustrations are quirky, and the characters' expressions are endearing. The page layouts shift from full page to comic book–style panels. VERDICT A sweet story of friendship, full of musings about potential that can be inspiring to imaginative minds. This is a good read for those in search of some whimsy and warmth.

Bike On, Bear! by Cynthia Liu. illus. by Kristyna Litten. S. & S./Aladdin. 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 coastal wind, Bear finds the opportunity to put all his knowledge into one tour de force to save the kid in danger. The palette is exquisite, with pale oranges and aqua blues, with added retro touches of background textures such as graph paper. 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.

Elena Rides by Juana Medina. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536216356.
PreS-Gr 1–A determined purple elephant named Elena buckles on her helmet and hops on a green bike, but her confidence falters after taking a few falls. Turns out that learning to ride isn’t easy, especially if you are a large elephant trying to balance on a small two-wheeler. It helps to have a caring friend—in this case, a little red bird who offers words and winged gestures of encouragement and support. Spare but engaging prose that includes just a few words or simple sentences per page effectively captures the experience of learning to ride: “She readies, she steadies…she pushes, she pedals! She wobbles and bobbles…KA-BANG!” Uncluttered illustrations in bright, bold colors convey a range of emotions from anticipation and excitement to disappointment and determination. Rhythmic text and expressive illustrations provide context making it easier to follow along. Elena’s persistence offers an important message to anyone attempting to master a new skill, including those just learning to read. VERDICT This cheerful story with colorful illustrations will appeal to new readers and to parents looking for a read-aloud about perseverance.

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka. Random/Schwartz and Wade. ISBN 9780375870071.
K-Gr 2—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. The scenes depict a brave girl in various stages of falling, trying, and being comforted and encouraged. Her legs, painted in thin, blue strokes, exhibit a fragile flexibility that expresses volumes. VERDICT The artist's marvelous sequences, fluid style, and emotional intelligence capture all of the momentum and exhilaration of this glorious accomplishment.

Wild Blue: Taming a Big-Kid Bike by Dashka Slater. illus. by Laura Hughes. Candlewick. ISBN 9781536215670.
PreS-Gr 2–A child transitions from a three-wheeler to a big-kid bike in this charming celebration of a perennial milestone. Kayla, who wears cowboy boots and a hat, loves to ride a pink “pony” aka tricycle, but is told by Daddy that it’s time to switch to a bicycle. The blue stallion proves to be too difficult to tame. After some bonding time, including a sweet song Kayla makes up to coax the bicycle, and some courage on her end, the endeavor is successful. The spirited pair are a perfect match. Hughes’s majestic illustrations balance the narrative. Sweeping images alternate between presenting Wild Blue as a horse and as a child’s first bike, demonstrating the power of young imagination. VERDICT A fun picture book for readers making their own big leap and a good choice for early elementary collections.

Two Bicycles in Beijing by Teresa Robeson.  illus. by Junyi Wu. Albert Whitman. ISBN 9780807507643.
Gr 1-3–Bicycles are an important mode of transportation for lots of people, and Robeson takes young readers for an unexpected ride: A red bicycle narrates the story! Wu illustrates this tale of a bicycle’s ride through Beijing on a mission to find its yellow bicycle friend. Telling this tale from the perspective of a bike is an excellent narrative device, especially for exploratory and imaginative storytelling with children, beautifully accompanied by Wu’s dreamy, soft drawings.

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon. Scholastic. ISBN 9780439050234.
PreS-Gr 2–When Duck finds an unattended bike, he is sure that he can ride it. And so he does, a bit wobbly at first, but then with increasing confidence until he is soaring with no "hands." As he passes each barnyard animal, they return his greeting but have secret thoughts of their own, ranging from scorn to envy. When some children leave their bikes by the house, it isn't hard to guess what the animals will do. This delightful story will have youngsters chiming in on the repeated phrases and predicting, in no time, what will happen next, and the many animal sounds provide ample opportunities for role-playing. Shannon's brightly colored spreads are filled with humor. There are delicious close-ups of the animals as Duck pedals by them. The animals' antics on the bikes are hilarious. Little Chicken rides a tricycle, the Pigs sport a bicycle built for two, Goat can't resist eating the basket as he rides, and tiny Mouse hitches a lift on Duck's handlebars. VERDICT A charming offering.

Bike & Trike by Elizabeth Verdick. illus. by Brian Briggs. S. & S./Paula Wiseman. ISBN 9781534415171.
PreS-Gr 2–This story celebrates the moment in a child’s life when they transition from a tricycle to a bicycle and all the joys and fears that come with that change. Trike is rusty and feels that Lulu has outgrown him. He remembers the many rides he and Lulu shared, braving the summer and surviving skinned knees. He longs for those days but knows that his fate is sealed when in rolls Bike, a shiny new gift for Lulu. Bike is fast, full of bells and whistles, and anxious to show off. Trike is concerned about safety, but Bike is young and full of energy. When Bike challenges Trike to a race, both learn important lessons about safety, sharing, friendship, and coexisting peacefully. The illustrations are simple, featuring the red Trike and teal Bike in their natural habitats, the garage, and the road. VERDICT Children will enjoy the banter between these two bikes and the joy of their new riders.


Bicycle Book by Gail Gibbons. Holiday House. ISBN 9780823411993.
PreS-Gr 2–The history of bicycles, the science behind their design, descriptions of different types, their care, and safety rules are all clearly and simply presented in Gibbons's typical, inimitable style. Lots of color, accurate explanations, and interesting facts make this a winning choice for beginning readers.

Born to Ride: A Story About Bicycle Face by Larissa Theule. illus. by Kelsey Garrity-Riley. Abrams. ISBN 9781419734120.
PreS-Gr 2–This is the story of one girl’s determination to learn to ride her brother’s bike despite the apparent risk of “bicycle face,” a demeaning term meant to deter women from the freedom and joy of cycling in the late 1800s. Armed with just a pair of her brother’s pants and her determination, Louisa Belinda Bellflower does learn to ride and realizes that bicycle face is a myth. Though she initially tries to hide the lessons her brother gives her from her mother, Louisa’s mother turns out to be an advocate of her daughter’s actions. In the end, mother and daughter are seen wearing pants and wheeling their bikes toward a suffragette rally. Following this inspiring story are historical accounts of women and the bicycle movement. The illustrations accent the story beautifully. VERDICT This unique tale of an important time in American history is a must-buy for any elementary library.

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