cover image Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen

Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen

Cari Best, , illus. by Christine Davenier. . FSG/Kroupa, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-36386-4

An exuberant, can-do spirit pervades Best's (Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! ) uplifting tale of a girl whose passion enables her to create opportunities out of roadblocks. Davenier's (the Iris and Walter books) watercolors initially create a sense of forward motion. The story opens with a redheaded one-year-old waving from a child's seat on Mama's bike, then progresses through the tricycle, bicycle-with-training-wheels, training-wheels-removal, seat-raising and handle-bar raising stages. In one picture, arms widespread, Sally Jean joyfully sings: "I can pop a wheelie, I can touch the sky,/ I can pedal backwards, I can really fly!" When, at eight, she outgrows her bike, the family's financial challenges become apparent—they can't afford a bike. Without a hint of self-pity, Sally Jean confronts her circumstances with ingenuity, optimism and hard work, aided by a community that finds numerous, nonfinancial ways to support her. Though she faces adult realities, whimsical artistic touches emphasize her child's world view; her toy elephant, for instance, energetically participates in all activities. Sally Jean follows her eventual triumphant achievement of fashioning a new bike with a generous act that closes the story on a heartwarming note. Ages 4-8. (May)