Saturday, November 26, 2011

Winter Gift Books for the Small Cyclists in Your Life

As we've mentioned often reading about or just meeting pictures of riders in children's books can be a fun way to share bikes with your smallest soon to be riders. We've talked about many of our favorites this year but want to mention them again since the season for sharing books as gifts for special friends and loved ones has begun. Here is a big mix of our reviews from the year.

Always at the top is the terrific Bear's Bicycle.

The Bear’s Bicycle by  Emilie Warren McLeod and illustrated by David McPhail is an 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 to this book 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.

Anatole by Eve Titus with pictures by Paul Galdone is a stealth bike book. It was the Caldecott Medal winner for 1956 and stands the test of time with beautiful line drawings washed with blues, red and black.  Anatole is a Parisian mouse searching for a way to take care of his growing family.  It just so happens that he and his mouse friends use their bikes to get everywhere. Their classic bicycles are sprinkled throughout  the book with cool bright front lights and bells on the handlebars. It's especially good for kids that like cheese....

Along A Long Road is a brand new book by New Yorker cartoonist Frank Viva. Our guys love the dynamic drawings that tell the story of a long fast ride through towns, tunnels over bridges. They don't pay so much attention to the words. Making up their own stories for where the rider is going and about the curious pregnant lady and her son who appear and disappear seems to be more fun. Just in case you are a stickler, the rider is not wearing a helmet...  but we love looking at the pictures in this book anyway.

New Red Bike a new book by James E. Ransome is all about the story and pictures. Tom's new bike is beautiful and the swooping ride he takes to visit his friend Sam is a favorite especially with our youngest.
The older guys have a running debate about Tom and Sam's friendship which takes a turn when Sam steals Toms bike and disappears.  Should Tom hang out with Sam anymore or should he just ride that terrific red bike off into the sunset? You'll have to choose your own side.

 Wheels of Change is a light hearted trip, for any age reader, through the blasting meteor landing of bikes in the lives of women at the turn of the last century.  Cycling changed everything from how women went out to what they wore.  Sue Macy's well researched book talks about why women first took to the road, then learned to race; and it addresses how the bloomer controversy shook the nation. Bloomers were more World Naked Bike Ride than Tweed Ride for the people of that era. I didn't know that at one time women actually cycled on bikes with both pedals on the same side of the bike. Great pictures of amazing bikes and bold women fill the pages. 
Elsa von Blumen looking great and going really fast! She's just one of the
many interesting women rolling through Wheels of Change by Sue Macy.

Tillie the Terrible Swede

by Sue Staufacher and illustrated by Sarah Mc Menemy is a terrific kid's book about Tillie Anderson, the Swedish transplant to Chicago who took the 1890s bicycle track by storm. She eventually set four track speed records and became champion of the world. Our guys love the bright clear illustrations and solid story. Tillie stands up to family and friends who discourage her. She builds her own strength and rides on. She even finds love with the friend who turns her on to racing, and then totally supports her rise to the top.

Spoiler alert: The only downside to either of these books are the last pages where cycling fades to the car. Even our dear Tillie turns to the motor car on the last pages. Hey, you could always glue those two closed!
In Chicago Tillie is a staple at the gift shop at the Swedish American Museum and at Women and Children First. 

JOnathan London's Froggy rides a Bike is a last read that we came across this fall. It's good for kids who love the Froggy series. All about Froggy getting his new bike but struggling to get going  on two wheels. Bring on the pedal bikes!

We hope you find a book here to delight a small cyclist in your life. What could be as fun as bikes --well really besides something delicious to eat maybe it's got to be books.

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