Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Simone Shin

After mowing lawns, raking leaves and shoveling snow, Leo finally has enough money to buy his dream bicycle, a red bike with 18 gears that he names Big Red.  Leo goes everywhere on his bike, but after a few years, he has outgrown Big Red.  Leo took good care of his bike and it served him well, but now it's time for a new one.

Leo tells the bike shop owner he would like to pass Big Red on to someone who needs a bike and the bike shop owner tells him about an organization that will take bike donations and send them to countries where they are needed.   At the donation area, Leo takes Big Red apart for shipping and soon his bike, along with 461 others, is sailing across the ocean on its way to someone in Africa who really  needs it.

Soon Big Red arrives in Africa, and finds a new owner.  Young Alisetta is a perfect match for Big Red.  In no time, Alisetta has learned to ride her new bike and now she can get to the fields earlier, harvest more sorghum and her family can eat better.  And she can ride to the village market, carrying items she and her grandmother have made to sell.  With the extra money, Alisetta's younger sibling can go to school.

One day, there is money to buy a second bike, but while Alisetta is away doing that, a pig tramples Big Red, ruining the wheel spokes.  Now it's only good for parts.  But Big Red's usefulness isn't quite over.  A worker from a medical clinic takes the bike, repairs it and turns it into an ambulance by attaching a trailer and stretcher on it.  Now when people in villages can't otherwise get to the clinic, Haridata can ride to them and even transport them back to the clinic using her bicycle ambulance.  Soon people in all the surrounding villages know about the wonderful bicycle ambulance that the kids now call Le Grand Rouge.  Le Grand Rouge transports many people for the next few years.  When Haridata leaves the clinic, she wonders who had this red bike before her, not knowing about what a wonderful journey Big Red/Le Grand Rouge has been on thanks to one boy's generosity.

This is one of those picture books for older readers that shows that even one person can make a difference in the world on a small but important scale.  The story of Big Red's journey is told in simple language, but includes lots of detail.  Readers probably don't need to know things like how Leo takes his bike apart for shipping but I think it adds a real touch of realism that makes this thought-provoking book accessible.

Shin's digital illustrations are done in a flat folk-art style using a soft pastel palette which makes the bright red bicycle really stand out which seems only right since it is the bike's story.

At the end of the book, there is information about what kids can do to help bring used bikes to areas in the world that need them and the organizations to contact should they have a bike to donate.  The book does make it clear that once they donate their bikes, kids will not know where it goes or who will use it or how they will use it.  As a donor, kids will just have to have faith that their bike will be loved and welcomed the way Leo's Big Red was.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like an amazing book! It sounds like it has a really good message. We need more books like this that show what life is like in other parts of the world, especially for younger readers.
    I will definitely be checking this out for me (and my kids).


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