May is National Bike Month, and a great way to celebrate--besides going for a ride--is to read books that feature these two-wheel wonders. I'm particularly pro-bike because my Main Squeeze is a biking fanatic, who has owned two bike shops. His last one had as its logo an illustration of a frog riding a bike, drawn by the talented children's book illustrator Brian Schatell.
During the time he owned the shop, I started collecting picture books that featured animals riding bikes. Here are a few of my favorites.
Frog and Toad Together showcases five stories about these two amphibian friends: "A List," "The Garden," "Cookies," "Dragons and Giants," and "The Dream." My favorite is the first, in which Toad writes a list of the many things he needs to do. Number one is "Wake up," which he then proceeds to cross off. Incredibly, I know an avid list-maker who has been known to do exactly that. (Hi, Mom!)
Marta is a cow captivated by bicycles. One day when a bike race passes by the farm, she is inspired to build her own. When she's finished, she faces a problem. She doesn't know how to ride. Like many a beginning rider, she takes her fair share of spills before mastering her new set of wheels. Next year Marta is ready. When the race again comes to town, Marta joins the fun--and ends up taking first place. Written by Germano Zulla and illustrated by Albertine, both from Geneva, Marta and the Bicycle is a delightfully silly story children will be sure to want to read again and again.
The Bear's Bicycle. His appealing drawings of animals capture their essence. The Bear's Bicycle, written by Emilie Warren McLeod, is a step-by-step progression of a little boy's ride through town. The boy narrator is a model rider, signaling turns, looking both ways before walking his bike across the street, and steering around cans and broken glass. All this is clearly shown. His stuffed teddy bear, however, is another matter. McPhail portrays the bear as a real one, who gleefully disobeys the rules of the road. He coasts down hills, shoves people who are in his way, and ignores STOP signs. His actions do have consequences. He fails to brake at the end, causing him to tumble. Children will get a kick out of seeing the bear's naughty ways, while at the same time learning the importance of bicycle safety.
Duck on a Bike showcases an entire barnyard of animals on bikes. The fun starts with Duck, who highjacks a bike and begins riding it around the farm. He passes Cow, Sheep, Dog, Cat, Horse, Chicken, Goat, a pair of Pigs, and Mouse. Each animal has its private opinion about Duck's shenanigans. When a bunch of kids ride up to the farm and leave their bikes outside, the fun begins. The animals jump on (the pigs riding a tandem) and off they go. When they disembark, no one is the wiser--except readers who have had the fun of seeing David Shannon's winning illustrations.