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Friday, June 19, 2015

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle, written by Jude Isabella and illustrated by Simone Shin. Kids Can Press, 2015. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"One by one the new owners claim their bicycles. Alisetta locks her eyes on Big Red, hoping no one else will wheel it away. Finally, her grandmother's name is called. Only a few bicycles remain. Big Red leans against the container. Alisetta rushes over to it. "This one!" she says. In the bush taxi on the way back to their village, Alisetta worries ... "

Alisetta's worry is that she  has never ridden a bicycle. I remember that feeling all too clearly. We did not have money for a bike; our neighbors did. Dianne was willing to let me ride her bike around the block - if I knew how to do it. How hard could it be, I wondered. Pretty darned hard I found out, after I ran into the tree in their front yard and put myself out of commission for a few days.

Had it been my bike, I hope that I would have done exactly what Leo does when he outgrows Big Red. He had saved his money to get it, and had loved it for the time he had it. He wants someone to have it who will love it as he has. When looking for a new bike, the owner of the cycle shop tells him how urgently bikes are needed in Africa to help villagers get from place to place. Leo is happy to donate to a group that will ensure it makes its way to those in need.

Big Red then finds new purpose in life when it is given to Alisetta, who uses it to help with the work on the family farm. Cars have little use on the dirt roads in Burkina Faso, but bicycles can make a huge difference to everyday life. Alisetta can get to the fields easily, and can even take the family's goods to market. When it is in need of repairs and can no longer be used by Alisetta, it is fixed up to become an ambulance for a travelling nurse. In it, Haridata can carry patients to find medical assistance at her clinic. Big Red has many uses and is much appreciated by those who are lucky enough to ride it.

Digitally created, textured artwork allows readers to see the landscape of the African nation, the people who live there and their way of life. In backmatter, the author suggests that we all might find ourselves contributing what we no longer need to help others. It is a worthy suggestion for each of us to consider. It is important for each of us to know that we can make a difference ... one small act of kindness and generosity can impact lives. The CitizenKid series from Kids Can shows readers that they have a valuable role to play in changing the world.

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