Saturday, June 23, 2007

story time

^ ^ ^ ^ ^
every time we ride together, my friend ralph invariably says,
"tell me a story, kim."
+ + + + +
it's our way of making the hours and the miles pass.
each of us has some pretty good stories to tell,
and since my ability to remember them sucks,
each time he tells me a story,
it's like hearing it for the first time all over again.
it's kind of like that with "gracie goat's big bike race."
but not entirely: this book is fresh, new, and very entertaining.
. . . . .
the folks at velo press are on to a good thing with this book,
the first in what i hope will be a vast series of tales involving
the "barnsville sports squad."
as the name suggests, the squad is
a gaggle of cleverly drawn barnyard animals,
all of whom have evolved enough to mimic human activities,
including speaking, hanging out in interspecies social groups,
and riding bicycles.
all of them, that is, except gracie goat.
not only does she not know how to ride a bike,
she's afraid to try to learn.
she possesses a wonderfully clever closet of bad things
that could happen to her if she were to ride a bike,
and it falls upon her more clever and seemingly fearless grandmother
to help gracie overcome this irrational fear.
but why is this an issue in the first place?
howard horse, one of gracie's pals, has a cousin,
helen, who is a professional bike racer,
and whose team is racing at the summer corn festival in town.
helen wants to sponsor a coed junior team in that event.
in the opening pages of this thoughtful book,
. . . . .

mirabella, a multi-time national champion on the track, creates just enough conflict to grab the younger reader without overwhelming, and introduces a balance of characters to help gracie overcome her anxieties in a way that allows gracie--and reader, alike--to grow and demonstrate growth by turning the tables of teacher-student with her grandmother.

i find this book extremely endearing on a number of levels. first, as a grandparent passing his love of life and bikes to a little nearly three year-old girl, it shows that it's cool for little boys and girls to race bikes. it acknowledges that it's normal to have fears and anxieties, and that a great way to deal with them is to talk to someone about them. gracie goes straight to her grandmother to confide, which the mostly reverend grandpa kim of course thinks is a good thing. that her grandmother is a woman who has climbed mountains, learned to fly and jump out of planes, and yet harbors a fear of her own provides gracie with the opportunity to reverse roles, and be the brave role model. but the little things mirabella does with her characters in this first effort are what make it such a big hit with me. that the professional cyclist is a woman--with strong legs--is good. that the little tough kid in the group, who bragged without basis that he could beat helen in the race, and upon meeting her realizes that he could NOT, is a lesson in modesty and humility from which some of my grown-up pals could benefit. there is a wonderful lesson in teamwork that takes place in the race itself that again shows the importance of teamwork not only in cycling, but in life itself. although she doesn't win, she finishes tenth, and is quite happy with having raced and having raced well.

the illustrations, familiarly done by lisa horstman, show refreshing attention to the kind of details that this bike fanatic lives for. the kids are shown tooling around--everywhere, by the way, to the bike shop, to the park, just riding bikes for fun--in their LITTLE rings, but racing in their BIG rings. the book discusses cycling jerseys, why there are pockets in BACK, why it's cool to have team jerseys. it even shows the kids carpooling to the race, in a STATION WAGON, not an suv, with a full rack of bikes on top, and more bikes on the back.

i have no fault with these illustrations.

the book closes with an explanation of the different types of cycling, there's a special note about the importance of hydration, and although the kids all wear helmets, not ONCE is that mentioned.

this book is not preachy.

it teaches by example, and isn't THAT refreshing?

buy this book. $15.95. i'm trying to arrange a visit to town by the author. she can come and ride with us, and autograph books at rasmussen's. how's that sound?

so buy this book. we can ride with a trackie.

while many of you, my regular readers, may know me as a bike racer, devil, orMINISTER WHO IS AVAILABLE TO DO WEDDINGS, what most of you do not know is that long ago, i was director of a cooperative daycare in iowa city. my undergrad degree was in elementary education, with certifications in, among other things, early childhood education and language arts & children's literature. i review books for a number of sources, and hope to continue to review books for velo press here on an ongoing basis. i am not paid for my reviews.


gpickle said...

I know! I know!

I'm a little


Why do I know you want to know, well once upon a thousand days whilst riding with my pal Kim I said, "Kim, tell me a story."

Garrett said...

funny, Ralph told me a story this weekend ...

Some hints: Naked bike riding, Nailpolish and 1 Get out of jail free card.


the mostly reverend said...

ah, yes, the little fuckers.
folks around here just don't understand the genesis of my "i learned from lesbians" t-shirt, do they?
the truth shall SET YOU FREE!!