A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by debut novelist Christina Uss features a spunky 12-year-old girl protagonist named Bicycle who takes a cross-country trip by herself on her bike. Some story elements are exaggerated and fantastic for wacky effect. For instance, Bicycle was raised in the Mostly Silent Monastery where the monks can only speak a list of "Sacred Eight Words," one of which is "sandwich." And a Civil War ghost she meets while riding through Virginia ends up coming along for the ride. The theme of friendship is threaded throughout as Bicycle meets a string of quirky characters along the way.
What's the story?
In THE ADVENTURES OF A GIRL CALLED BICYCLE, a toddler is found in the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C., where she's named "Bicycle" for the T-shirt she's wearing, and raised by Sister Wanda, who homeschools her. Bicycle grows up to love her bike, called Clunk, but Sister Wanda worries that she doesn't have friends, so when Bicycle turns 12, the nun decides to send her to a camp called The Friendship Factory that advertises "Three Guaranteed Friendships or Your Money Back." But Bicycle has another plan. She wants to befriend Zbig Sienkieweicz, an international cycling star who's making an appearance at the Blessing of the Bicycles in San Francisco. So she hops on her bike and crosses the country on her own, meeting challenges, setbacks, and a slew of oddball characters along the way. Will Bicycle make it? Will she meet Zbig? Will he agree to be her friend?
Is it any good?
This offbeat road-trip story, in which a 12-year-old girl bikes solo cross-country, is enlivened by the eccentric characters she meets along the way, as well as the majesty of the U.S. landscape. The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle draws on author Christina Uss' own experience with long-distance bike trips, and the story's infused with her love of cycling, sweetening the ride.
Uss has a broad, breezy, folksy style, exaggerating for comic effect. For instance, Bicycle meets French Chef Marie, who's come to America to open a vast chain of locavore cafes that conveniently dot Bicycle's route, providing unending eats. And, in a town where there's an annual pig parade, she eats fried pies with fillings like kielbasa-'n'-mustard and peanut butter-and-sorghum. The characters and situations are often improbable, and some readers will love that and giggle along, while others might prefer to be grounded in a more realistic story. But all readers will root for Bicycle, an endearingly determined protagonist, and will have fun traveling with her from the Civil War battlefield sites of Virginia to the Bicycle Blessing ceremony in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the bike trip in The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle. Can you tell from the story that the author's a long-distance cyclist herself? How does the map of the trip itself help structure the story?
Why do you think the author chose to exaggerate the characters and events? Have you read other books that do this? Would you have fun writing a story in a broad style about quirky characters?
Which are your favorite characters? How do they reflect the part of the country they're from? How are they distinctly American? Do you think that even the French character, Chef Marie, feels American in some way?
- Author: Christina Uss
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Holiday House
- Publication date: June 5, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: December 13, 2019
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