Tag Archives: resourcefulness

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Patchwork Bike

I thought I’d celebrate the first day of March optimistically, as it’s the month when spring arrives in the northern hemisphere, and cyclists tune up their bikes in anticipation of the return (hopefully) of warmer weather. I hope you’re all able to hit the roads on your favorite two or three wheelers soon!

Title: The Patchwork Bike

Written By: Maxine Beneba Clarke

Illustrated By: Van Than Rudd

Publisher/Date: Candlewick Press/2018 (first published in Australia by Hachette Australia/2016)

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: bicycle; resourcefulness; play; poverty; imagination; North Africa; multicultural

Opening:

This is the village where we live inside our mud-for-walls home.

These are my crazy brothers, and this is our fed-up mum.

Brief Synopsis: The young narrator and her brothers in an unnamed village near a desert create a bike out of used items and take readers on a joy-filled journey.

Links to Resources:

Why I Like this Book:

With its sparse text and roll-off-your-tongue language, The Patchwork Bike is a joy-filled read-aloud that will have kids wanting to build their own patchwork bike. The bike’s handlebar branches “shicketty shake” and “wood-cut wheels” “winketty wonk” when the children ride it. Who wouldn’t want to “bumpety bump” through the village under the “stretching-out sky”?

But along with this joy and exuberance, astute children and adults will notice that these children live in a “mud-for-walls home” and have a “fed-up mum”, perhaps because the kids use “Mum’s milk pot” (her only milk pot?) for a bell. And they make their bike not out of a purchased kit but from what most of us would term trash. I think the inclusion of these signs of poverty adds a rich layer to this story that makes this a perfect book for classroom or home discussion.

Van Than Rudd’s expressive acrylic illustrations on recycled cardboard add so many details to the text including picturing dark-skinned Mum with a head covering and robe, indicative of clothing from North Africa, including the initials BLM on the bike’s license plate in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, and an image of the boys standing on an abandoned police car. Pointing out these details to children provides, in my opinion, a wonderful discussion opportunity. As Rudd relates in “A Note About the Illustrations”, “[t]o me, the kids painting ‘BLM’ on a bark license plate was their way of showing pride in what they had created out of limited resources and also linking themselves to a long history of rebellion.”

A Note about Craft:

In sparse, poetic text, author Beneba Clarke transports readers to an unnamed, probably North African village and describes the building of a bicycle out of used materials. Interestingly, she doesn’t mention anything that indicates a geographical region, except the existence of a “no-go desert”, nor that identifies the family as being from a particular race or religion. Instead, these details are left to the illustrator, Rudd, who brings this story to life.

In an “Author’s Note”, Beneba Clarke relates that she included a child with a bike made from scrap pieces in a short story for adults. The image of that child and the experience of bike riding stayed with her and formed the basis of The Patchwork Bike. What characters or situations can you pull from existing manuscripts and repurpose into a new story?

Per Candlewick’s website, Beneba Clarke is “an Australian writer and slam poet champion of Afro-Caribbean descent”. For more information about Beneba Clarke, see a recent Picture Book Author feature in The Brown Bookshelf. This is her first picture book.

Also from Candlewick’s website, Rudd “is an Australian street artist and activist”. This is his first picture book. Read an interview with Rudd at Let’s Talk Picture Books.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – All the Way to Havana

I had the pleasure of visiting Havana earlier this year with my husband and riding in a vintage automobile like the one featured in today’s Perfect Picture Book. Since then, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its Book Birthday. Thankfully, that day arrived last week, and today’s Perfect Picture Book zoomed into my mailbox a few days ago. My husband, who barely notices the piles of books “decorating” my workspaces, oohed and aahhed at this one. I know you will, too!

9781627796422Title: All the Way to Havana

Written By: Margarita Engle

Illustrated By: Mike Curato

Publisher/date: Godwin Books (Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan Publishing Group)/August 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8 (and older)

Themes/Topics: Cuba; family; vintage automobiles; journey; resourcefulness

Opening:

We have a gift, and we have a cake, and today we’re going to drive all the way to the big city to see my new baby cousin on his zero-year birthday!

Some of this island’s old cars purr like kittens, but ours is so tired that she just chatters like a busy chicken – cara cara, cara cara, cluck, cluck, cluck…

Brief Synopsis:

A boy and his family drive from the Cuban countryside to the big city of Havana in their vintage automobile to welcome a new baby to the family.

Links to Resources:

  • Learn about Cuba;
  • View the book trailer here;
  • View an interview with Mike Curato on All the Wonders;
  • Color a car, like Cara Cara, the classic car of All the Way to Havana.

Why I Like this Book:

All the Way to Havana is a beautifully written and illustrated book that brought back wonderful memories of the few days I spent in Havana, Cuba this past spring. Its simple tale of a boy helping his father fix an old car to carry them to visit a new family member paired with the lovely old cars in the picturesque city will appeal to kids and car lovers of all ages, I think. And the messages of family togetherness and caring for family treasures, like the old car, will resonate with young and old, too.

In a blog post, Curato stated that he loved drawing cars as a young child and still enjoys it today. That love shines through in All the Way to Havana, from the cover, to the end papers filled with many colorful makes and models, to the 1950s color palette, and even to a surprise if you “lift the hood” by peeling back the jacket cover.

In that same blog post, Curato wrote:

Margarita said this book is about peace, about bringing two neighbors together: the Cubans in the book, and the Americans reading it. Neighbors should be friends. While some of this book may seem very foreign to some, I hope that they can also see the universal themes of family and the roads we take, some bumpy and others smooth. If one neighbor can see the road the other is traveling on and discover a familiar feeling, then maybe that is enough for me.

A Note about Craft:

The opening lines of All the Way to Havana are among the best I’ve read as they set the scene and highlight the issues of the story. There is a gift and a cake, so the reader is on alert that there’s a party, without mention of that term. We learn that the narrator is driving “all the way” to the big city – ie, a long distance, to celebrate a “zero-year birthday”. What a lovely way to herald a birth! Reading further, we meet Cara Cara, a character in herself, and learn that she doesn’t purr like a kitten, but clucks like a chicken. What wonderful images these words evoke! And these images will be easily recognized by children and evoke the rural setting of the story’s beginning. What a wonderful way to hook readers in the first lines!

All the Way to Havana garnered four starred reviews and considerable attention in the press. Justifiably so!

Visit Mike Curato’s website here and Margarita Engle’s site here, and read an interview with both in Publisher’s Weekly .

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books  list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!