The Bicycle Man

David L. Dudley, Author . Clarion $16 (250p) ISBN 978-0-618-54233-8

First-time novelist Dudley offers a poignant portrayal of African-American struggles in the segregated South. Times are hard for 12-year-old narrator Carissa, her widowed mother and her paternal grandmother, all of whom live on the outskirts of Summit, Ga., in 1927. Carissa, ridiculed by the popular girls at school, has few diversions and fewer friends; thus, she welcomes the arrival of Bailey, a drifter, who rolls into town on a shiny blue bicycle and offers to do chores in exchange for food and shelter in the shed. With his kind ways, worldly knowledge and wonderful stories that always have a moral, Bailey soon wins Carissa's trust. During times of crisis—such as when Carissa's mother is accused of stealing, and when rumors are spread about Carissa's father being shot by the police instead of dying in the war—Bailey is always present to lend a sympathetic ear and offer a helping hand. Ironically, however, it is Carissa who ends up helping Bailey after he confesses secrets about his past and must make a tough decision about settling down or moving on. While the author uses perhaps too heavy a hand teaching moral lessons throughout the novel, his characters remain sympathetic and realistically flawed. Readers will sharply feel Carissa's disappointments and will admire her courage and loyalty to friends. Ages 10-13. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 11/07/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
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