The Red Bicycle by Jude Isabella

The Red Bicycle by Jude IsabellaThe Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella
Published by Kids Can Press on March 1, 2015
Pages: 32
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
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In this unique nonfiction picture book, the main character is a bicycle that starts its life like so many bicycles in North America, being owned and ridden by a young boy. The boy, Leo, treasures his bicycle so much he gives it a name -- Big Red. But eventually Leo outgrows Big Red, and this is where the bicycle's story takes a turn from the everyday, because Leo decides to donate it to an organization that ships bicycles to Africa. Big Red is sent to Burkina Faso, in West Africa, where it finds a home with Alisetta, who uses it to gain quicker access to her family's sorghum field and to the market. Then, over time, it finds its way to a young woman named Haridata, who has a new purpose for the bicycle -- renamed Le Grand Rouge -- delivering medications and bringing sick people to the hospital.
This book makes an excellent choice for cultural studies classes; author Jude Isabella has provided several terrific suggestions in the back of the book for projects large and small, while a map shows the distance the bicycle traveled across the Atlantic Ocean.
Award-winning illustrator Simone Shin's digitally composed artwork includes evocative depictions of Alisetta's and Haridata's communities in rural Africa, creating vivid comparisons between Leo's life and their lives. Youngsters will learn how different the world is for those who rely on bicycles as a mode of transportation, and how one ordinary bicycle -- and a child's desire to make a difference -- can change lives across the world. This book also offers an excellent opportunity for expanding character education lessons on caring, compassion and empathy to include the wider world.


The Red Bicycle follows the true story of one donated, recycled, and re-purposed bicycle, Big Red, as it travels from a small town in the United States to rural Burkina Faso in West Africa. Depending on where they live, each owner has a different use (or need) for the bicycle.

In a sweet, child-friendly way, The Red Bicycle shows children how an item they use for fun can be essential — sometimes even life-saving — to people in other parts of the world. C recently heard about bicycle ambulances for the first time, so she was excited to read more about that here.

I appreciate so much that the story did not come full circle at the end. That is, the boy who originally donated his bicycle doesn’t see it again or find out what happened to it. It gives children a way to imagine where their donated belongings go and how they might be used without an additional expectation that they’ll be reunited later on, or hear back from those who receive the items. It’s realistic, and puts the focus is on recognizing a need and simply giving.

We really enjoyed this story and appreciated the additional educational resources and “take action” ideas.