Kids across the globe love bikes. Kids also love stories. So what could be better than books about bicycles? Here today to share “Five Amazing Picture Books About Bicycles That Your Kids Will Love” is author Maria Monte, just in time for World Bicycle Day on June 3.
Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage for many kids—we all remember the wobbly starts and stops, the falls, bumps, and collisions, and those wonky training wheels that always seemed to get stuck in every little crevice along your path. Then, one day, it all changes – the wheels come off, your riding skills sharpen – and you’re off enjoying all kinds of adventures with your two-wheeled companion. Even after we grow up, bicycles remain a constant in our lives: we use them for recreation, commuting, and exercise, and we watch sporting events that include them. Let’s face it, bikes are everywhere – as of the early 21st century, more than 1 billion bicycles have been manufactured worldwide. In 2018, the United Nations officially designated June 3 as World Bicycle Day, following a three-year campaign by Leszek Sibilski, a sociology professor and cycling and physical education activist, to recognise the significance of bicycles in our lives. Given our collective love affair with bicycles, it’s no surprise that many gorgeous picture books pay homage to the bicycle. To mark World Bicycle Day, I’ll share my top five amazing picture books about bikes that your kids will love.
The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella
This picture book is a moving tribute to the life of Big Red, a bike cherished by a young boy in America. When the boy outgrows the bicycle, he donates it to a charity that ships bicycles to Africa. Big Red then becomes an indispensable part of two women’s lives. The first uses it to take her goods to market. Later, the second uses it to deliver medicine and bring the sick and injured to a medical clinic from neighbouring villages. Big Red’s journey will inspire kids ages 8–12 to be better global citizens; the story gently encourages important values like altruism, gratitude, and cultural awareness. Simone Shin’s rustic illustrations underscore Jude Isabella’s realistic depiction of life in Africa. The author also includes a note on how to donate bicycles to charity – given that 15 million bikes are discarded each year, this is a worthwhile cause. This book would make an excellent resource for cultural studies, social responsibility classes, or parents who want to instill a broader worldview in their children.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson & Sean Qualls
Emmanuel’s true story is about triumph over adversity. Born into poverty in Ghana with a deformed leg, Emmanuel’s kind and wise mother, Comfort, teaches him to be independent and never give up. Emmanuel refuses to become a beggar, often the fate of disabled people, and instead earns a living to feed his family. Ultimately, he becomes a national hero by riding nearly four hundred miles in just ten days whilst championing the rights of the disabled. This feat’s powerful message is echoed in this book: being disabled does not mean being unable. Emmanuel used the humble bicycle to make a meaningful difference in many lives; his story also reminds young readers ages 4–8 that they can draw on their strength, ingenuity, and courage to overcome challenges and make a difference. Laurie Ann Thompson’s emotionally eloquent narrative is beautifully complemented by Sean Qualls’ bold and distinctive illustrations. Educators, librarians, and parents can use this book along with the documentary Emmanuel’s Gift (2005), narrated by Oprah Winfrey, as tools to explore resilience and inclusivity.
Duck On a Bike by David Shannon
This popular picture book tells the light-hearted, humorous tale of a curious duck who takes a ride on a bike that he has found on the farm. The duck greets each animal as he passes by, and as he continues his journey, the duck grows bolder and shows off his newfound riding skills. Each animal responds to the duck’s greeting with their unique animal noise – moo, baa, squeak etc. But what the duck doesn’t know is that each animal harbours a different opinion of the duck’s antics, including seeing him as silly, brave, lucky, clever, or even showy. Suddenly, a group of kids ride into the barnyard and leave their bikes outside; the story ends with each animal enjoying a ride on a bike just like the duck. The plucky duck is a wonderfully likeable creature, and his moxie will endear him to young readers ages 2–5. Kids will find this story laugh-out-loud funny and get a buzz from the gorgeous illustrations by David Shannon, who is an acclaimed creator of more than 30 children’s books. This one is a teacher’s favourite because its entertaining prose encourages kids to take an interest in reading.
Gracie Goat’s Big Bike Race by Erin Mirabella
Gracie Goat’s journey from being unable to ride a bike to participating in a bike race makes this story relatable and inspiring. A professional cyclist wrote this book – author Erin Mirabella represented the United States at two Summer Olympics and won six national championships. This story is the author’s love letter to cycling, and kids ages 4–8 will root for Gracie as she gains confidence. Lisa Horstman’s illustrations are charming, sweetly depicting the animals as they ride and interact. The story also reinforces a few vital life lessons: setbacks can occur when trying to learn something new and that practice is needed to learn a new skill. The story also tells of the touching relationship between Gracie and her grandmother as they encourage each other to face their fears – this book would make a nice gift for grandmothers and granddaughters to share. At the end, the author offers some facts about cycling, which parents and educators can draw upon to foster an interest in cycling as a hobby or sport.
Ellery’s Magic Bicycle by Maria Monte
Inspired by my childhood adventures, this heartfelt tale will take readers on a whimsical journey through Ellery’s childhood with her magical bicycle in tow. Ellery and her bicycle share many wonderful new experiences; Ellery finds adventure, love, friendship, and also weathers sorrow and loss. The bike is Ellery’s teacher, protector, friend, and solace. When Ellery grows up, she forgets her special bond with the bicycle, but she rediscovers their bond years later. A story of redemption, Ellery’s struggles, hopes, and triumph serve as an uplifting reminder to parents of their childhood bonds – some may even find this story an emotional experience. Young readers ages 4–7 will grow to love Ellery’s strong and kind spirit and see their cherished bicycle in a new light. Zoe Saunder’s delightful, captivating, and vibrant illustrations subtly draw readers into the story’s magical realism. Educators and librarians can draw on Ellery’s journey to explore important personal qualities like kindness, courage, and compassion.
The theme of World Bicycle Day is to appreciate the bicycle’s uniqueness, longevity, and diversity – this appreciation has been beautifully woven into each book’s story. I hope you enjoy these books – and cycling – as much as I do.
About Maria Monte
Maria Monte lives in Melbourne with her young son. Her time is divided between family, a fulfilling role in communications, and publishing her children’s books. She enjoys mochas, watching comedies, and losing herself in wiki rabbit holes. Maria’s latest heartwarming picture book Ellery’s Magic Bicycle, illustrated by Zoe Saunders, was released in May 2022 through Bonny Books. Her debut picture book, Eve’s Ducklings, illustrated by Emelie Wiklund, was released in July 2021. Connect with Maria on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or you can enjoy her musings on parenthood on her blog.