BOOKS

book cover of The Red Bicycle
The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle
Jude Isabella, illustrated by Simone Shin. Kids Can Press, 2015. 32 pages, 19.95
*****
Reviewed by Elena Vandergeest

The Red Bicycle chronicles the travels of a red bicycle and the various roles it assumes in a beautiful, engaging and inspiring picture book. Big Red is purchased by Leo, a North American boy, to ride to school and swimming, and for leisure. Once Leo outgrows Big Red, he is inspired to donate the bicycle to an organization that sends “bikes to a faraway country to people who can’t afford a bicycle but need one for transportation.” It takes Big Red 29 days to reach West Africa by ship, after which it is trucked to Burkina Faso. In Burkina Faso, Big Red takes on many roles: it is ridden through a sorghum field to scare off birds; it is used to bring goods to the market; and it serves as an ambulance for a clinic in Koudougou. The Red Bicycle is the story of how an ordinary bicycle can have an extraordinary impact on people’s lives.

This picture book can be used as a mentor text to facilitate and support conversations and lessons focusing on equity, global citizenship and the importance of understanding and appreciating others. It puts into perspective the fact that how a bicycle is used in North America can differ vastly from how it is used in another part of the world.

This book can be used as a mentor text in primary, junior and intermediate classrooms, with the lessons being adjusted to meet the classroom profile. In terms of curriculum connections, The Red Bicycle strongly supports the social studies curriculum goal of enabling our students in “developing an understanding of responsible citizenship…and an understanding of the diversity within local, national, and global communities, both past and present.” The Red Bicycle can also be a platform for powerful literacy activities including Four Corners, Think Alouds and Questioning the Author. Overall, the story of Big Red offers multiple access points and opportunities for critical literacy lessons and dialogue focusing on equity and critical and responsible citizenship.

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