In this unique nonfiction picture book, the main character is a bicycle that starts its life like so many bicycles in North America, being owned and ridden by a young boy. The boy, Leo, treasures his bicycle so much he gives it a name --- Big Red. But eventually Leo outgrows Big Red, and this is where the bicycle's story takes a turn from the everyday, because Leo decides to donate it to an organization that ships bicycles to Africa. Big Red is sent to Burkina Faso, in West Africa, where it finds a home with Alisetta, who uses it to gain quicker access to her family's sorghum field and to the market. Then, over time, it finds its way to a young woman named Haridata, who has a new purpose for the bicycle --- renamed Le Grand Rouge --- delivering medications and bringing sick people to the hospital.
This book makes an excellent choice for cultural studies classes; author Jude Isabella has provided several terrific suggestions in the back of the book for projects large and small, while a map shows the distance the bicycle traveled across the Atlantic Ocean. Award-winning illustrator Simone Shin's digitally composed artwork includes evocative depictions of Alisetta's and Haridata's communities in rural Africa, creating vivid comparisons between Leo's life and their lives. Youngsters will learn how different the world is for those who rely on bicycles as a mode of transportation, and how one ordinary bicycle --- and a child's desire to make a difference --- can change lives across the world. This book also offers an excellent opportunity for expanding character education lessons on caring, compassion and empathy to include the wider world.
Grades 3-6. Leo, a North American boy, saves his money to buy a bicycle, which he names Big Red. When he has outgrown it, he donates it to an organization that sends bikes to African countries. Alisetta, an orphan in Burkina Faso who lives with her grandmother, chooses Big Red as her bicycle and uses it to earn money to send her brother and sister to school. Later, a medical clinic buys it and, adding a canopied trailer, transforms it into an ambulance. Haridata rides Big Red to nearby villages, providing medical care and occasionally carrying a patient back to the clinic. Each segment of Big Red’s journey has characters and details that make it distinct and interesting, but the book also succeeds in encouraging reuse and increasing global awareness. Shin’s illustrations use texture and layering to good effect. In one image, a pale world map provides the backdrop for a scene that simultaneously shows the route of Big Red’s journey and a street scene in Africa. A fine addition to the CitizenKid series.