The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella
While there are a gamut of children’s books on recycling and reusing, most of them are either dry directives or out-of-context advice. The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella is different. It is a story. It tells how one ordinary bicycle made a difference in many lives.
Leo saves his money for two years so he can purchase a red bike. He loves his red bike and rides Big Red everywhere. One day, however, Leo sadly realizes he’s outgrown his beloved two-wheeled vehicle. At the suggestion of the bicycle shop owner, Leo donates his bike to an organization that sends bikes to Africa. There, Big Red finds two new owners. First, a girl uses Big Red to transport items for sale from her community to the market. The money she makes is used to send her younger siblings to school. Next, Big Red is given to a man looking for bikes for a healthcare clinic. The worn, but loved, bicycle is retrofitted with a stretcher- trailer for patients who require transport to the clinic.
You won’t find anyone being shamed for participating in a consumerist society in this picture book. Instead, this story encourages readers to enjoy, maintain and eventually pay forward their belongings to someone who can benefit. Readers are inspired to take agency of their property and think conscientiously about how items can serve additional, beneficial purposes for others. The final pages of the book offer specific suggestions for donating bikes and critical thinking prompts about a bicycle’s role in society. Also of note, Simone Shin’s digitally-composed artwork that integrates elements of real acrylic and silkscreened textures perfectly complements the non-fiction story.
I read this book with my 11- and 7-year-old. Coincidentally, my 7-year-old received a new bike over the holidays. His old, too-small bike is still sitting in our garage. He is now very excited to donate it to a non-profit bike exchange program that provides quality, safe bikes to children in need in the area, including children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. He’s a little disappointed that his beloved Lightning McQueen two-wheeler won’t be saving lives as an ambulance for a clinic in Africa, but he’s happy to know that some other child might enjoy his old bike as much as he did.
Thank you to Kids Can Press for the opportunity to read and review The Red Bicycle prior to its release date on March 1, 2015.