Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reading, Riding, no Rithmetic - two great reads for younger riders

The bead on our studded front tire on the box bike broke and stuck out through the rubber, popping our tube and putting us on the train these last two icy days awaiting its replacement. Two of our favorite winter reads came out.

The Bear’s Bicycle by  Emilie Warren McLeod and illustrated by David McPhail is a new absolute favorite. It is a wonderful book about biking from 1975 that is actually very current. It covers everything from making turns and checking tires to not getting doored, as a young boy (a clever rider) and his brought-to-life teddy bear (rather reckless) go off on their daily ride. Perfect for the learning rider, it says it all with sly humor and clever pictures. My kids crack up at the Bear’s cycling antics every time.  Though it’s pre-helmet era, the boy’s puffy cap looks suspiciously like a chic Yakkay hat helmet.

You can probably find it at the library or order it from your trusty neighborhood book store — like Sandmeyer’s or Women and Children First.  (link here)

Usually there is plenty to watch on our wintery city rides, be it a new building going up or the perennial hit — some gigantic machinery next to a huge hole getting dug in the road. More than buildings grows in Chicago, and a nice trip game we play is to spy winter trees we pass on a ride and identify them from their shapes. Carole Gerber’s Winter Trees was our original inspiration for this game. A book perfect for the younger rider, Leslie Evans’s sweet linoleum block, watercolor and collage illustrations bring the shapes of winter trees to life. They especially piqued my middle guy’s curiosity about which trees we passed on our daily rides. It’s a nice counterpoint to the bulldozers and street cleaning machines! I like that Winter Trees gently describes the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees and gives tactile clues for telling seven different trees apart — a good number for the budding arborist to remember.

Sometimes we ride by trees in a place a few times and try to guess as we go by what the trees are from their shapes, then go back, when we have time, to check the bark and branches, to see if we were right. If you get really good at the tree game, tree guides can be fun to have around. We have a Peterson’s Guide to North American Forests but there are plenty of other good ones to be found at the library or book store.

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