The Brave Cyclist Review in AJL

Thank you Association of Jewish Libraries for your review of The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero.

Hoffman, Amalia. The Brave Cyclist: A True Story of a Holocaust Hero. Illus. by Chiara Fedele. North

Mankato, MN: Capstone Editions, 2019. 40 pp. $17.95 (9781684460632). Gr. 3-4. Reviewed from proof.

A new righteous gentile biography offers different ground for young readers. The subject is Italian, a

Tour de France winner, a brave man defying the Fascists. This fast-paced picture book starts in Florence

with a weak, young, poor boy named Gino Bartali riding a rusty, second-hand bicycle. He practices,

he trains, he works in a bike shop; the owner urges him to race professionally. By age 21, the frail boy

is a powerful racer who wins Italy’s most prestigious race. He next tries the incredibly difficult Tour

de France. Despite a spill on Day One, Gino wins; he rides victoriously into Paris as a proud Italian.

The new dictator of Italy expects a speech thanking him; Gino does not mention Mussolini and Italy

cancels his welcome home celebration. Five years later, the Catholic Church in Florence contacts Gino

to deliver papers to create false documents so Jews can flee. They need a bicycle rider to go over 100

miles, passing personal examination at checkpoints. Gino agrees. The Fascist soldiers know him as an

Italian champion and he is allowed through. For months, Gino takes forms to the printers and delivers

the finished papers. He is finally caught, but arrested for the wrong thing. They let him out of jail. When

the war is over, he trains again. In 1948, considered an old man, he wins the Tour for the second time.

The illustrations are modern, mobile and sophisticated, strengthening the message of the text through

the expressive faces. The palette is subdued, underlining the woes of war. This courageous hero is

recognized at Yad Vashem, and on bike paths named in his honor around Jerusalem.

Ellen G. Cole, retired librarian, Temple Isaiah, Los Angeles, CA

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