The Patchwork Bike

Maxine Beneba Clarke, illus. by Van Thanh Rudd. Candlewick, $15.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0031-7
Under a “stretching-out sky at the edge of the no-go desert,” a dark brown child with mirrored sunglasses gives readers a tour of a desert village, from “our mud-for-walls home” to “the sand hill we built to slide down.” But the best thing? Soaring out into the sand on the bike the kids have created from cans, discarded wood, and “a bell that used to be Mum’s milk pot.” In her picture book debut, Clarke’s lines sing with sound and rhythm, evoking the “shicketty shake” sound of the bike on sand hills. Street artist Rudd’s textured paint-and-cardboard collages create a strong sense of a place (the blaze and shadow of the desert) and the people who live there: the narrator’s “fed-up mum” in a hijab and robe, and the “crazy brothers” pictured bouncing on a police car, who write “BLM” on the bike’s license plate—a reference to Black Lives Matter, Rudd notes in an afterword. In an author’s note, Clarke writes about her experiences with poverty: “What these times taught me was how to make something out of nothing.” Without minimizing the clear references to economic and racial struggle, the words and images in this snapshot story pulse with resourceful ingenuity, joyful exuberance, and layered meanings. Ages 6–9. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/13/2018
Release date: 09/11/2018
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