The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle / by Jude Isabella; illus. by Simone Shin. 12.14.2015

Kids Can Press ISBN 9781771380232

INT Grades 4-6 Rating: 4

Leo saves his earnings for months to buy Big Red. His beautiful bicycle takes him to school and to work until he grows too tall to ride it. He hears of a program that sends bicycles to Africa, and lovingly prepares Big Red for its next adventure. Alisetta, a young girl whose family farms in a small village in Burkina Faso, proudly takes ownership. She rides to the fields early in the day to tend crops and takes produce to market. With the bicycle, the family makes enough money for the children to go to school. When Big Red needs repairs, the family gives the bike to Boukary, who refurbishes it and bolts a small trailer to the bike, which then becomes an ambulance for a local health clinic. Haridata takes medicines to villages as far away as a three-hour ride, and brings people who need medical care to the clinic.

Big Red is rightly the focus of this charming tale. Without preaching, Jude Isabella invites the reader to see the value of bicycles for people who have no paved roads, livestock, or cars. Simone Shin’s digital images shimmer with movement against muted backgrounds, highlighting the colorful people and, of course, the bicycle. Caption-like, short excerpts of the full text draw the eye to the edges of each opening. Endnotes list organizations that deliver bicycles, include photographs of people with their bikes and wares, and suggest activities for children to understand the importance of bicycles. The Red Bicycle shares a real need and the ways to meet it.

Diane Carver Sekeres, CLJ