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The Red Bicycle-The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle
By Jude Isabella
Illustrated by Simon Shin
Published by Kids Can Press
Available March 2015
Review copy provided by Netgalley
Young Leo has finally saved enough money from mowing lawns to purchase the bicycle he has wanted for a long time. He names the gleaming red bicycle Big Red and the pair are inseparable. Leo rides Big Red everywhere and takes good care of it. Finally, the day comes where Leo is too big for Big Red and he wants to find the bike a good home where the owner will love and appreciate Big Red. During a visit to the bicycle shop, Leo leans about a program where used bicycles are donated to people who need them throughout Asia and Africa. This, Leo decides, is what he will do with his beloved bicycle.
Big Red arrives in Africa and is spotted by a young girl named Alisetta. Of the more than 400 bicycles to arrive on the ship, Big Red is the bicycle Alisetta wants. Because of her new bicycle, Alisetta is able to help her parents with their sorghum crop by arriving early to scare off birds. She is also able to bring more products to market with her bicycle than by walking. This leads to more money and opportunities for her family including a chance for her siblings to attend school. The family saves enough money for another bicycle when an accident damages Big Red.
Shortly after, a man named Boukary arrives at the market. He is looking for used bicycles to use at a medical clinic where he works. Bicycles allow clinic workers to travel to villages to administer medical treatment and to serve as ambulances using a stretcher-trailer attached to the back. Alisetta shows Big Red to Boukary and he thinks the bicycle can be fixed. He takes it to his clinic where he transforms Big Red, now faded with a many replaced parts, into an ambulance bicycle.
Although this story is fictional, the book is based on the real possibilities provided by bicycle donation programs. What we in America often see as a fun, recreational way to travel can make a tremendous difference for a family with no transportation. Bicycles can be ridden to school and to markets. Baskets and other devices can make bicycles an effective way to transport many necessary items for sale or trade. This means more money for families and more opportunities for the family members, especially the children. I loved reading about this ripple effect. This is an important book to share with children. Without exposure to different cultures, children are led to believe that everyone lives like them. Showing them how others live can help build compassion and make them want to create change as world citizens. I would use this book with grades 1-4.
*World Bicycle Relief had a video that shows how a bicycle changed the life of a 12 year-old who used to have to walk 2.5 miles to and from school each day.
*This video from Adventure Journal also shows how bicycles can change the world.
Visit Jude Isabella's web site here ans Simone Shin's website here.