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The Patchwork Bike

by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd

Published by U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2018
36 pages
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0031-7

Ages 5-8

A girl enthusiastically describes her antics with her brothers, with riding the bike they built themselves her favorite of all they do. The bike is comprised of found objects: “handlebar branches that shicketty shake … tin can handles and wood-cut wheels…and a bell that used to be Mum’s milk pot.” That it is handmade out of economic necessity, sometimes requiring repairs relying on more ingenuity, is something that readers and listeners can infer, but it has no relation to the siblings’ pleasure and delight, which is absolute. Set in a village on the African continent, “at the edge of the no-go desert,” under the “stretching-out sky,” the story featuring a Muslim family celebrates creativity, imagination, and universal joy in play. The fresh, playful use of language is perfectly suited to its theme. The same is true of the acrylic-on-recycled cardboard art, in which the use of shadow and light suggests the hot sun on every page. Informative notes from both author and illustrator speak more to the story’s themes, and intentional connections the artist made between the African setting and characters and African Americans in the United States, including a “BLM” license plate. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center



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