I really enjoy reading historical fiction and I spent a few hours with this one over the holidays -- an absorbing and exciting read with lots of nail-biting moments.
Marcel loves riding his bicycle, whether he's racing through the streets of his small town in France or making bread deliveries for his parents' bakery. He dreams of someday competing in the Tour de France, the greatest bicycle race. But ever since Germany's occupation of France began two years ago, in 1940, the race has been canceled. Now there are soldiers everywhere, interrupting Marcel's rides with checkpoints and questioning.
Then Marcel learns two big secrets, and he realizes there are worse things about the war than a canceled race. When he later discovers that his friend's entire family is in imminent danger, Marcel knows he can help — but it will involve taking a risky bicycle ride to pass along covert information. And when nothing ends up going according to plan, it's up to him to keep pedaling and think quickly... because his friend, her family, and his own future hang in the balance..
The Bicycle Spy was written by Yona Zeldis McDonough and published by Scholastic Press in 2016.
My thoughts as a reader and teacher:
I couldn’t put this book down! It’s a compelling story that brings to life the fear and reality of what it was like to live in France during 1942. Marcel was brave and courageous, and I loved how his passion for riding bicycles and the Tour de France was an integral part of the story.
“He was exhausted, and very, very cold. But then he thought of the riders in the Tour de France. Surely they got tired, hungry, and cold too. They had to ride in all kinds of weather—extreme heat and freezing cold.”
From the moment Marcel discovers a secret about his family, he is afraid about what he must do, but he takes on the challenge, even when at times he has to do it on his own and without the security and guidance of his parents.
This would be a great book to start or deepen discussions about prejudice, persecution and basic human rights. The back matter contains a brief history of World War II as well as of the Tour de France.
My thoughts as a writer:
Historical fiction can sometimes be more interesting than compelling, but this story was both. I loved how the author created suspense and drama through the use of specific details.
“Escape? Where?” The hair on the back of Marcel’s neck began to prickle and he knew it wasn’t just from the crisp, cold air.”
“A gust of wind cut across Marcel’s face as he cycled furiously down the street.”
Yona Zeldis McDonough has written 27 books for children. They include The Doll With the Yellow Star, The Dollhouse Magic, Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Who Was Rosa Parks?