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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Everyone can learn to ride a bicycle, written and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2013. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Want to learn
to ride a bike?

First you need
to choose
the perfect bike
for you.

Let's go!

Watch everyone ride."

I think I can! I think I can! I think I can! I knew I could!

I didn't learn to ride a two-wheeler until I was twelve. Our family didn't have the money to buy my brother and I a bicycle. So, when our neighbor got a new one and offered me a chance to ride it, I was terrified. That terror led to a major crash and a great deal of pain. But, it didn't stop me from trying again the next day. There is something about the freedom such a skill allows. Off you go around the block; for most of the way no one can see you.

No matter what we try that is new to our experience, it takes patience and practice...and a ton of encouragement. The little girl in Chris Raschka's book has everything she needs to master a brand new skill. She has an impressive helmet, and her pick from a wide array of bicycles. Most of all, she has a mentor...someone who loves her, who believes in her, who stands by and watches as she faces this new challenge with some concern. It's not always easy; persistence pays off and soon she is doing just what she set out to do.

The text is simple, and it's direct. After all, this is a how-to book, isn't it? It is also filled with encouraging words, and gentle pushes to take the learning further. First, it's training wheels, and then without them. A level street offers little resistance, grass makes it a bit trickier, and a hill proves too much. There's only one thing to do.

The watercolor images so accurately portray each step in this rite of passage for many young children. The opening double page spread of the bicycle shop and its varied choices is a delight and an obvious invitation to open discussion about all that is there. Of course, she finds the perfect bike and one that is sure to evoke envy in readers. I really like the way perspectives change with page turns. From framed enclosed boxes, to white space that invites focus on the rider herself, to the many small spots that move the action along as she masters the art of bicycling. Her determination is evident, as is her joy when practice makes perfect!


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