Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Book Alert: The Red Bicycle (Pacing)

Title: The Red Bicycle: the extraordinary story of one ordinary bicycle
Author: Jude Isabella
Illustrator: Simone Shin
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Year: 2015 (March 1st, ARC provided via Net Galley)
Word Count: unavailable (lots)
Top 10 Element: Pacing

I am participating in Picture Books 14:14, a challenge created by Christie of Write Wild that encourages bloggers to review 14 picture books in 14 days, starting on Feb. 14th.

The Red Bicycle is a powerful story of the life of one red bicycle and its multiple reincarnations through donation. The story traces the bicycle from its initial purchase by a young boy in North America (Canada) to a young girl in Africa (Burkina Faso) to a young hospital employee (also in Burkina Faso) and beyond. This is a great story for sharing with kids the power of one person (or one bike) to make a difference.

Analysis: Pacing

The pace of a story depends on many factors, from the macro scale of how the story itself is laid out across the 32 pages of a picture book to the micro scale of sentence length and formation and the placement of paragraph and page breaks. With an information-dense picture book such as this one, it is the pacing of the story across the pages and the pull of the page turn that keep us reading on.

The story is focused around the first three owners of the book. (Each layout referenced below actually refers to a two-page spread.)

  • Leo (Canada) - two layouts with the bike, one layout packing up the bike, one layout of the bike's journey across the ocean
  • Alisetta (Burkina Faso) - one layout unpacking the bike, one layout learning to ride, one layout for the impact of the bike, two layouts for deciding to send the bike on
  • Haridata (Burkina Faso) - one layout to rehab the bike, one layout choosing the bike, one layout of the impact of the bike, and one layout for the conclusion
  • The book wraps up with two final layouts for What You Can Do to Help and A Note for Parents and Teachers with more information about organizations involved in bicycle donation and reusing including
The approximately similar amount of time devoted to each owner of the bike helps add to the even pacing and feel of the book, while the short duration for each owner (only 4-5 two-page spreads) keeps the reader engaged and wondering what will happen next. This page-turn suspense is highlighted especially by the emotional connections for each character as they say goodbye to the bike without being able to follow it (though we, the readers, can). 

"Leo feels a lump in his throat as the door closes."

"Alisetta wheels Big Red to the pickup truck, pats the seat, and whispers, 'Thank You.'"

You'll have to wait until the book is published and available next week to read the final emotional goodbye and conclusion!

Want more picture book analyses? Click here to read my other posts for Picture Books 14:14 or check out these other great posts for the Picture Book 14:14 Challenge going on the rest of this month.


  1. I love how many people are touched in The Red Bicycle. I have a bike to donate!

    1. I think the concrete examples really help kids see how one item can make a difference. The end notes mentioned several organizations, but one is

  2. Great review - I like how you look at the pacing of the sentences and pages as well as the book as a whole. I also like the idea that we as readers get to see the gratitude and the impact the bike has on the subsequent owners, even though the ones donating the bike don't. In real life, we usually have to just trust that when we donate, it helps others without really knowing, so this story is a nice affirmation!

    1. Thanks, Laura. Exactly. I think it makes it more tangible to kids especially, to see an individual example of a difference made.

  3. Katie, sounds like a great use of pacing. Makes me thinking of 'coasting' too...sometimes pacing might be blended and smooth. Something to think about in my writing. Thanks for this review.

    1. Great analysis, Damon, and love the "coasting" connection. Sometimes it is more about a connection than just a standard story format and flow.

  4. this sounds like a great book.

    My daughter often donates her toys to organizations and those in need. One thing she has trouble parting with is her books.


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