Four Childrens' Bike Books!By various authors
reviewed by Robert Leone
Yikes! Bikes! (Ready, Freddy! Series) by Abby Klein, illustrated by John McKinley. This series chapter book, suitable for individual reading by those from about 2nd to 4th grade level, has a perfectly appropriate title. Shark-infatuated Freddy Thresher has to put his body where his mouth was and learn to ride without training wheels in time for the big charity ride. His older sister enjoys telling him how much he'll fall learning to ride. Dad's teaching technique: Hold Freddy upright and then when moving at some speed, letting go. Don't expect much in the way of positive bike image – they're depicted as objects of pain to be mastered, not aids to enjoyment.
Andy Shane: Hero at Last by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, illustrated by Abby Carter. This picture-dominated book, suitable for read-along with kindergarteners and individual reading by 1st and 2nd graders, depicts our hero decorating his bike for riding in the big parade. In a moment of gentle heroics, saving the big parade with a timely retrieval of a bass drummer's drumstick. Sign up Andy for the youth Madison races, and please let me know whether they really make bike helmets for cats!
Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo by Rebecca Janni, illustrated by Lynne Avril. Forget the bike content for a moment – this is a kindly introduction to that troublesome problem of first person perspective, the unreliable narrator! Your young child reader will thrill as Nellie Sue's descriptions and the accompanying illustrations switch between a pink 10 gallon hat and matching pony to a vented helmet and matching coaster brake bike. Don't expect the agonistic, zero sum contest of pride depicted in Yikes! Bikes! – it's about fair play in an actual competition, with some incidental livestock herding thrown in.
Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes. The World War II in Italy setting for this mostly domestic drama features no illustrations at all, which is a departure for author Hughes. A Florentine family (with a missing father) has to cope with the alternate, conflicting demands of friendship, the German occupiers, the Resistance, finding food and hoping young teen Paolo doesn't get into trouble with his nightly bike forays into town. Suitable for middle school readers.