To celebrate World Bicycle Day on 3 June, I share five wonderful children's books that capture the joy of owning a bicycle.
1. 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 donating 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 instil a broader worldview in their children.
2. 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. Instead, he 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 people with disabilities. 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 and the documentary Emmanuel’s Gift (2005), narrated by Oprah Winfrey, as tools to explore resilience and inclusivity.
3. 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 the duck doesn’t know that each animal harbours a different opinion of the duck’s antics, including seeing him as silly, brave, lucky, clever, or 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 spunk 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, 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.
4. Together We Ride by Valerie Bolling
Author Valerie Bolling tells the heartwarming story
of a little girl's introduction to bicycling. We all know that learning to ride is no easy feat. But with a little courage, a guiding hand from her dad, and an enthusiastic bark from her pup, one brave girl quickly learns the freedom that comes from an afternoon spent outside on a bike. This sweet story, told in brief and inventive rhyming text, perfectly captures the fear, anticipation, and delight of mastering the art of cycling as a child. What makes this story, especially touching is the precious bond the little girl shares with her father as she embarks on this important milestone. Valerie says the inspiration for this story came to her when she saw children riding bikes in her neighbourhood during the COVID shutdown and was happy to see one four-year-old girl in particular progress from being a novice to a more confident rider. Valerie says, "Learning to ride a bike – without training wheels – is such an exciting milestone for children that I decided to write a story about that experience." Valerie is the author of five picture books, including Ride, Roll Run: Time for Fun! an energetic ode to community and outdoor play.
5. 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, and 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 aged 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. Most of these books also celebrate diversity, with people of colour and people with disabilities represented.
These books would make great introductory books for parents wanting to instil a love of bicycles and cycling in their children. Indeed, I wrote Ellery's Magic Bicycle because I loved my childhood bicycle very much. I hope you get to share the joy of cycling with your children as much as I do.
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