New Red Bike!
At first glance, the narrative arc for Ransome's latest feels flat. Tom has a new bike; his friend Sam "borrows" it; the boys patch things up and take turns riding; Sam is surprised with a bike of his own; and the friends head off on a side-by-side adventure. But story takes a backseat to a bigger emotional truth: a bike is an awesome thing. Wearing a bright red helmet that matches the bike's frame, Tom is truly at one with his machine, and Ransome (Gunner, Football Hero) provides Zenlike text to match: "He zooms down the hill, around the curve, and back up." Each moment of action in that sentence gets its own watercolor and pencil image and perspective (overhead, low angle, side view), so readers can savor how Tom's body and the bike together experience the downhill velocity, banking the curve, and the slow climb. Of course Tom is willing to forgive Sam: the bike is happiness incarnate, and it's bigger than both of them. Newbie bikers should find that this book gives full voice to the joys of having wheels of one's own. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)