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