Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero by Amalia Hoffman, illustrated by Chiara Fedele

Sometimes the most unlikely people find themselves in a situation that calls for action and bravery and they rise to the occasion. This is certainly the case of Tour de France champion Gino Bartali.

Born in Florence, Italy, Gino was a small, sickly boy who found release riding a bike, even if it was a rusty second hand bike. Before long, he could outrace his friends, even those with better bikes. In sixth grade, Gino decided to learn more about cycling, and got a part-time job with Oscar Casamanti, a man who repaired racing bikes. When he was invited to ride along with some racers through the Tuscan hills, Gino persevered even as some riders dropped out. Casamanti was so impressed, he recommended Gino take part in professional races.

At 17, he began training and racing more, and by age 21, Gino had become a powerful, winning racer. In 1938, he participated in the Tour de France and despite having an accident during the race, he still managed to win. By now, Benito Mussolini had declared himself Il Duce, the leader of Italy and a ally of Adolf Hitler. Mussolini declared Jewish citizens to be enemies of the state. Kids could no longer go to public school, or play in public parks, and their parents lost their jobs. Many Jews were arrested.

Then, in 1943, Gino received a mysterious telephone call from the archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Elia Dalla Costa. Could Gino help them? Riding his bike, Gino became a secret courier for the cardinal - making a 110-mile trip to deliver papers, photographs, and identification papers to a printer in Assisi, Italy, who then created forged identification papers that would be give to Jews in the hope that the papers would save their lives.

Gino carried on this important work until he was arrested in 1944, accused of selling guns to Mussolini's enemies. Released after 3 days, Gino went into hiding for a few months, until August 1, 1944 when the war ended in Italy and Italians were freed from Mussolini's grip.

And Gino? He went back to training for bike races, even winning the 1948 Tour de France again.

The Brave Cyclist is such an important story, and yet, one very few people knew about until now. Gino's story is a particularly important one when you realize that the punishment for helping Jews in any capacity was death, and not just for the helper, but often for their family as well. But Gino's story is also an inspiring one that proves the even one person can make a difference, that resistance can change people's fate. And the whole time Gino rode his bike great distances, often being stopped and searched by soldiers, delivering documents to be converted into forged identification papers, he had to keep his activities to himself. He could not even tell his wife so that if they were arrested, she wouldn't know anything.

In addition to an accessible written biography, Chiara Fedele's affecting illustrations are done in bright hues reflecting the happy days of cycling and racing, then switch to mostly dark hues reflecting the dark times of Mussolini's reign, complimenting and enhancing the text.

This is one of my favor illustrations. Gino has just been stopped and searched by soldiers,
now he's riding into the open field of the countryside, bringing freedom to some of Italy's Jewish citizens.
The Brave Cyclist is a picture book for older readers that is sure to generate some wonderful discussions among young readers about what they might do if they found themselves in the same circumstances as Gino.     

Author Amalia Hoffman has included an Afterword that goes into detail about Gino Bartali's life, and his heroic actions. In fact, she writes, that Gino was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Israel, and what greater honor can there be but to be so acknowledged. You will also find an important Select Bibliography in the back matter for further investigation.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Capstone Editions

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sunday Funnies goes on a Blog Tour: Dear Justice League by Michael Northrop, illustrated by Gustavo Duarte

So, you all know how so many favorite Superheroes were a mainstay for American youth during WWII, right? Back then, the Justice League was formed and called the Justice Society of America (JSA), but eventually, morphed into the Justice League of America (JLA). In 2011, the JLA was reintroduced as the Justice League (JL), and that's pretty much where it stands today.*  The name may have been changed over time, but the members not so much - there's Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg.

All of this brings us to Dear Justice League. Here are America's great superheroes, seemingly perfect in every way, but haven't you ever wondered if their lives are really as perfect as they seem. Don't they have any faults, or screw up once in a while, maybe make a wrong decision, or perhaps even have some good advice for the rest of us?

Yes, they do and you can find it all between the covers of this delightfully silly, sometimes serious look at some of the Justice League's not so spectacular adventures as they answer emails from some of their fans.

One boy wants to know if Superman is super all the time, so Superman recounts a time he flew into a building because he was texting while flying (twf). This set off a series of hilarious events that he tries to handle all over Metropolis, ending in Superman getting a ticket for, what else, twf.


Does Wonder Woman have any advice for an 10-almost-11-year old? You bet she does, and it involves her 11th birthday and some cake.

Or how about Batman, always so brave, so fearless, has he ever been scared? asks a boy about to go to a new school and afraid he's going to be picked on the way he was at his old school.

Dear Justice League is divided into nine chapters, one for each Superheroes' story and a final chapter that ties it all together. There is a storyline running through each chapter that connects each story to the others involving a insectoid that escaped Hawkgirl's mighty mace. Insectoids are giant mantis-like alien bugs from the planet Molt-On and can replicate very quickly and easily so it's important for the Justice League to deal with them. But as insectoid's keep replicating exponentially, can they be stopped, even by Superheroes?

This is such a fun book to read, and I know young fans of the Justice League will love it. It has a very energetic, tongue-in-cheek text, but nothing really over the heads of young readers. And Duarte's colorful cartoon-like illustrations will no doubt appeal to kids. I liked that the Superheroes take the time to answer kid's email questions, and the way some of the stories circled back to the email writer to show how the advice they got helped them.

It seems that most kids go through a phase of being totally into Superheroes and this is geared perfectly for the age when that usually happens, a time when kids are out in the world because of school and activities and life is beginning to get more complicated and a little Superhero fantasy helps. I know my Kiddo went through a Superhero phase (and probably hasn't outgrown it yet, if truth be told).

Dear Justice League is a fun definite-must-read book for fans, and ideal for introducing kids to the Superhero realm, and might even hold appeal for reluctant readers.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was an EARC received from the publisher

Be sure to visit the other stops on the Dear Justice League Blog Tour:



*If you really want to read the complicated history of the Justice League, you can find it HERE