cover image Hero on a Bicycle

Hero on a Bicycle

Shirley Hughes. Candlewick, $15.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6037-6

After more than 50 years of writing and illustrating children’s books, two-time Greenaway Medal–winner Hughes delivers her first novel, a tense and emotional thriller set during the German occupation of Florence in 1944, near the end of WWII. With an absent father and a British mother, 13-year-old Paolo Crivelli and his 16-year-old sister, Constanza, suffer isolation and scrutiny under the tight security of the Nazis and their neighbors’ suspicion (their father is believed to be a Partisan, part of the pro-Allied resistance). Paolo secretly violates the city’s curfew each night to ride his bicycle across town, and Partisans approach him one evening, setting in motion their plan to have Paolo’s mother harbor escaped Allied prisoners of war. The third-person narration shifts smoothly among Paolo, Constanza, and their mother, giving readers profound insight and perspective on their individual worries and pressures, as their situation becomes all the more perilous. The Italian setting is vibrantly presented, and Hughes creates both a memorable cast and a palpable sense of danger at a critical juncture of the war. Ages 10–14. (Apr.)