Review: Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins

Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins

Bikes for Sale by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Zachariah OHora (9781452159324)

Maurice has a bright yellow bicycle attached to his lemonade stand. He never lacks for customers even as he drives through town, into the park with best lemon trees, and then onward. Everyone wants to buy his lemonade. Lotta rides her red bicycle to gather sticks every day. She gave them away for free. The two of them never met, but one day Maurice’s bike crashed because of a stick and Lotta’s bike smashed because of some lemon peels. The two of them tried to move on past their ruined bicycles, but it wasn’t the same. Then one day, they both headed to the bike shop where they found a two-seated bike made from their two ruined ones. But can they share?

Higgins has written several books for children. This one is a dynamic story of two very similar and yet very different characters who both love riding bicycles for very different reasons. Still, one hopes through the story that they become friends. Their sadness at their lost bicycles mirrors one another and there is a chance for a lot of blame to ruin any chances they might have to be friends. But the love of bicycles shines through as the two of them come together to delight people in the parks once more.

OHora’s illustrations make this book a stand out. He uses an incredibly rich and saturated color palette filled with deep reds, gorgeous greens, lemon yellow and bright blues. The bicycles in the illustrations are wonderfully out sized for the characters, making them all the more important in the images.

A book built for two, or more. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Chronicle Books.

Review: The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd (9781536200317)

An award-winning poet and spoken-word artist, Clarke has created a picture book that shimmers and sings. It tells the story of a little girl whose brothers have created a bicycle out of scraps. Their family lives on the outskirts of the no-go desert and there is little all around them. The best thing though, is their bike. Built out of tin cans, buckets, bark and wood. It is enough to carry all of them back and forth, ignoring their fed-up mother as they whisk past.

The words in this picture book are meant to be shared aloud, coming alive as they are spoken. The rhythms emerge and the various invented and evocative words shine, such as “winketty wonk” and “shicketty shake.” Even the words she uses to describe the setting around them become tangible with the “stretching-out sky” above it all.

The illustrations are somehow equal to the glorious poetry. Done in acrylic on recycled cardboard, they have ghosts of tape and printed words still on them. The smooth texture of the cardboard is used next to ripped areas that show the corrugation and offer new textures to the images. This use of recycled material to tell the story of a scrap bike, sets just the right tone. And on that cardboard is a story of celebration and childhood.

One of the best picture books of the year! Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

3 Very Friendly New Picture Books

Can I Be Your Dog By Troy Cummings

Can I Be Your Dog? By Troy Cummings (9780399554520)

Arfy is a dog looking for a home, so he writes to each house and business on Butternut Street. One by one though, they each say no. The Honeywells have a cat that’s allergic to dogs. The butcher thinks Arfy might steal too many meatballs. The fire station already has a dog. The junkyard just sends a nasty note back. And no one is living in the abandoned house. But as she delivered each of Arfy’s notes, the letter carrier made her own decision. The book ends with tips on how children can help animals who need a home. The use of letters adds a real appeal to this book as Arfy so politely asks for space and then is turned down with a variety of responses, some friendly, some rude and others businesslike. The book will work well for children learning to write letters who need a great model like Arfy to follow. The appealing artwork adds a playful feel and readers will recognize that Arfy has a friend in the letter carrier from the start. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Random House and Edelweiss.)

Get on Your Bike by Joukje Akveld

Get on Your Bike by Joukje Akveld and Philip Hopman (9780802854896)

When Bobbi and William have an argument, William shouts that Bobbi should just get on his bike and leave. So that’s exactly what Bobbi does. Bobbi’s head is filled with anger at first and he doesn’t notice what is around him. But as he rides through town and out into the country, he begins to notice things around him. At each stoplight, Bobbi makes a choice of where to head. Sometimes traffic is loud and busy and other times Bobbi is alone in nature. As he rides, his thoughts move from the fight to his surroundings and he notices more and more. His ride brings him full circle back home, where William is waiting for him with dinner already made, cold but not ruined.

This picture book was originally published in the Netherlands and one can see their cycling culture strongly in the images. In most of the images, the roads are crowded with bikes which share the road with the cars and trucks. The story subtly moves through anger and shows a way of coping that allows a natural  move from frustration and anger to returning to oneself. The illustrations show a world populated with animals rather than people. Bobbi himself is a panda and William is a bulldog. There are birds, alligators, mice and more riding bikes, driving trucks and walking the towns. Refreshing and friendly, this picture book takes a look at anger and cooling down. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.)

Hi, Jack By Mac Barnett

Hi, Jack! By Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (9780425289075)

Two masters take on the easy-reader format in this first in a new series. Jack is a monkey who gets into all sorts of trouble, most of it of his own making. Accompanied by two other characters, Rex the dog and The Lady, Jack steals the lady’s purse in the first chapter. He returns the purse, but soon Jack and Rex are sporting the lipstick that Jack took! When he returns the red lipstick to The Lady, Jack still has one more trick up his sleeve. Young readers will enjoy the naughtiness of Jack and how he manages to make friends and feel sorry and yet still be entirely himself in the end. The writing is simple and friendly for the earliest readers who will also appreciate the chapter book format. Pizzoli’s art is simple and bright. At the end of the book he offers a tutorial of how to draw each of the characters, inviting children to create their own pictures and stories. A great pick for early readers and early reader collections. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from ARC provided by Viking.)

Review: My Bike by Byron Barton

My Bike by Byron Barton

My Bike by Byron Barton (InfoSoup)

Tom rides his bicycle to work each day. On the way, he passes all sorts of other vehicles like cars, buses, and trucks. As he gets closer to work, he passes lots of people. Then he passes monkeys, acrobats, tigers, lions and elephants! Once he reaches the tent where he works, he changes into his costume and puts on his makeup. He heads into the circus ring as a clown, ready to do his act. Once he’s up on the tightrope, he hops aboard another mode of transportation, a unicycle.

This jolly picture book will appeal to fans of transportation books and circuses alike. Barton has written other classic titles in this series like My Car and My Bus. The book reviews the various parts of a bicycle and then through very simple sentences and words eventually reveals Tom’s job to the readers. The book is straight forward but cleverly done so that readers will wonder what his job is all along his route to work. The final panel of him riding off in his regular clothes and a clown nose is a great farewell.

Just as with the text, the illustrations are simple too. Done in Photoshop, the art is clean and bold, the colors bright and cheery. The transformation into a clown in handled well and Tom never turns creepy on the reader, instead keeping his friendly demeanor and appearance throughout. The final panel of him riding off in his regular clothes and a clown nose is a great farewell.

The simplicity of both the text and the illustrations make this a great pick for smaller children. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.

Review: The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

girl and the bicycle

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

This follow up to The Boy and the Airplane features a girl who is longing for a new green bike that she sees in a shop window when walking with her little brother.  But she doesn’t have enough money for it, even after emptying her piggy bank, digging through pockets in the laundry and looking under the couch cushions.  She even tries selling lemonade and her toys.  That autumn, she has another idea to make money and finds someone willing to pay her for raking leaves.  She continues to do chores for them through the winter and into the next summer.  Finally, she has enough money for the bicycle.  But when she gets to the store, the bike is gone.  Don’t worry, her hard work will pay off in the end!

Pett has a touch for wordless picture books. The subtle humor throughout also helps make the book very readable and approachable for children.  They will relate to the longing for a new toy and through this book will learn about the power of resilience, hard work and patience. 

Pett’s subjects could easily veer into saccharine qualities, but that is nicely avoided thanks to his deft timing throughout the book and the way that the sweet endings come with real sacrifice and work on the part of the characters.  His illustrations have a vintage feel but also a modern cartoon aspect.  Done in sepia tones, the dark green of the bike pops clearly on the page. 

A wordless book for slightly older preschoolers, this book is a rewarding read.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

Review: Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka

everyone can learn to ride a bicycle

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka

The two-time Caldecott Medalist returns with another exceptional picture book.  In this book, a little girl learns to ride a bike.  She first picks out the bike she wants to try, then watches other people ride their bikes.  The training wheels are very helpful, keeping her upright and they steadily are moved upward so that she can start to balance on her own.  Training wheels off, she tries riding in the grass but when she heads down a small hill, she tips over.  It takes a lot of courage to get back on again and again and again after tumbling off.  But then, suddenly and incredibly, she learns to ride a bicycle on her own!

Written in second-person, the book really allows readers to see themselves as the one riding the bicycle.  Raschka’s text is simple and effective, encouraging readers to give it a try.  When the tumbling begins, Raschka starts talking about courage, sure to inspire young readers to see that quality in themselves both in learning to ride a bicycle and in other endeavors too.  As always, the art is the key with Raschka’s picture books.  His style is loose and flowing, capturing movement and wobbles with easy watercolor strokes. 

A great pick for spring when children are sure to be longing to be out playing in the warmer weather, this book is a quietly inspiring read.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Best Bike Ride Ever by James Proimos

best bike ride ever

The Best Bike Ride Ever by James Proimos and Johanna Wright

All Bonnie has said for seven days is “I want a bike” so when she finally gets a bike on the eighth day, she just can’t wait to try it out.  She can’t even wait to be shown how to use a bike, instead she just hops aboard and pedals off.  There’s only one problem – she doesn’t know how to stop.  She rode her bike over bridges and on top of elephants, between giraffe legs, to the top of the Statue of Liberty and the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Unfortunately though, she did stop in the end, by falling over.  Happily, her parents were there not to scold her but to show her how to use her bike.  In fact, Bonnie had the adventure of a lifetime right in her own backyard as sharp eyed children will figure out.

This book is entirely playful from the over-the-top begging for a bike to the wild ride through the entire world to the final twist at the end.  Readers will experience their own adventurous ride as they read this book, never knowing quite where Bonnie and the book are heading next.  It’s a lot of fun to read! 

The illustrations are quirky and bright.  Filled with details but never fussy, they have a life to them that adds to the spunk of the book.  They are also filled with motion and movement, which makes them all the more enjoyable.

Great fun, this wild ride of a book will have children wishing for their own bike.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books for Young Readers.