What Are You Reading? June Book Picks
SHARED By: Katherine Grier, Librarian at York Avenue Preschool
The warm weather means more New Yorkers spending time outdoors. My husband Ned is an avid cyclist and every year he looks forward to the summer when he can give up his indoor spinning classes and get back on the open road. Because cycling is such a large part of Ned’s life, I have always been on the lookout for good picture books and stories about bicycles and bicycle riding that he can share with our daughter. Here are a few of our favorites. If you like these and want even more bicycle-themed children’s books, check out the ones reviewed in the Bookshelf article by Pamela Paul in the May 12, 2013 New York Times Sunday Book Review.
“Along a Long Road” by Frank Viva “Along a Long Road” by Frank Viva is a great visual book that follows a lone bicycle rider as he pedals along the yellow line of a long road that takes him over bridges and through tunnels, in and out of cities and towns and past country fields and the beach. This book is fun and engaging just because of how it moves through the pages. Even the youngest readers can follow the rider along the yellow line of the long road not only with their eyes, but with their fingers too! The text of the book is all description. There is no dialogue. The emphasis is on the illustrations which are all done in five colors (blue, white, black, red and yellow). These illustrations smartly show the route the cyclist takes and the sights he observes on the way, including the rides and arcades of an amusement park, clothes drying on a clothesline and people on the street. In fact, if you were to line up all the illustrations from the first page to the last you would have a very long “map” of the bicyclist’s entire journey. At the end of the book, the cyclist makes it back to his starting point and begins his circuit again. Even the curved lines of the rider’s body convey this continuous motion–up and around, along and through, out and down.
“Sally Jean, Bicycle Queen” by Cari Best “Sally Jean, Bicycle Queen” was a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year in 2007. It is a fun little read-aloud book that is surprisingly rich in content. The illustrations are bright and lively and really bring the story to life. It’s about growing up, the power of positive attitudes, resourcefulness, putting old things to good use, and of course, bicycle riding. What’s more it takes place in an urban environment where (as we New Yorkers know) learning to ride a bike can be especially challenging. The story centers around a girl named Sally Jean who has been riding bicycles all her life. When she is one, she rides on the back of her mother’s bike. When she is two, she gets her own tricycle. When she turns four, she gets a two wheel bike with training wheels that she names “Flash.” When she is five, she takes her training wheels off Flash and begins tackling hills. As she gets still older, her Mom tells her to raise her seat so her bicycle will get bigger too. Finally, she cannot raise the seat any more. She has outgrown Flash, but her family doesn’t have the money to buy her a new bike. So what does Sally Jean do? She learns to repair her bicycle and starts to help friends and neighbors out with their bike repairs too. In the process, she builds herself a new bike from used parts and realizes she can have just as much fun with it as she had with all her other bicycles. A refreshing ending that is fit for a queen and very satisfying to us regular folk too!
“Duck on a Bike” by David Shannon
The author of the popular David picture books (“No, David,” “David In Troule,” “David Goes to School”) wrote and illustrated this delightfully playful story of a Duck who spies a red bicycle one day and gets “a wild idea” to try riding it. After a slow, wobbly start, Duck is soon pedaling gleefully around the farmyard, waving at and greeting all of his barnyard friends. They all say “Hello” back, but their private thoughts and reactions are much more varied. Horse sneers “You’re still not as fast as me!” Goat thinks “I’d like to eat that bike!” Dog is impressed with Duck’s “mighty neat trick.” And Sheep frets “He’s going to hurt himself if he’s not careful!” As Duck continues on, a pack of girls and boys ride by the farm in a blur of dust, park their bikes and head indoors. A magnificent two-page wordless spread follows depicting a scene where all the animals are gathered near the abandoned bikes eyeing them eagerly with sly smiles on their lips. Readers can almost see what the animals are now thinking, and sure enough, the next wordless picture shows them all zipping around on bikes, with Duck in the lead. Shannon keeps the reader entertained all the way to the last wordless page which shows the ever curious and adventurous Duck contemplating an unmanned tractor. All in all, this is a fun, action-packed and exquisitely illustrated story that is sure to please young and old alike.
“Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bike” by Chris Raschka
Learning to ride a bike is one of the most important milestones of childhood, and this book captures the ups and downs of the experience beautifully. Using simple and effective words and lots of expressive watercolor pictures, it not only shows kids how to learn to ride, but captures what it feels like to fall… get up. . . and fall again. . .until finally they are riding on their own! In it, a father guides his daughter through all the physical and emotional steps involved in the process. He helps her pick out her first bike and teaches her the mechanics of riding it, first with training wheels and then without. He encourages her and teaches her the power of persistence. It is a sweet book to read one-on-one and is perfect for a beginning reader as well.
“The Bike Lesson” by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Like Chris Raschka’s book, this wonderful vintage book also tells the story of a father teaching his little onehow to ride a bicycle. When Small Bear (aka Brother Bear in newer Berenstain Bears stories) gets a new red bike, his Papa insists he must teach him the lessons of bike riding before Small Bear can ride it. In typical Berenstain style, Papa’s lessons go wrong and he ends up telling Small Bear over and over again that “this is something you should NOT do.” Finally, Papa hands the bike over to Small Bear who proudly and flawlessly rides them both home to Mama. The text of the story is all in rhymes that are very humorous and will easily hold the attention of listeners and new or early readers alike. It is a perfect addition to any summer reading list.
Bike Photo Courtesy of Fine Art America