In this unique nonfiction picture book, the main character is a bicycle that starts its life like so many bicycles in North America, as a child’s favorite mode of transportation. Leo treasures his bicycle so much he gives it a name – Big Red. But eventually Leo outgrows Big Red and 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. When Alisetta earns enough for a new bicycle, she gives Big Red to a man who is fixing up old bikes for a medical clinic. The bicycle finds its way to a young woman named Haridata, who renames it Le Grand Rouge and gives it a new purpose – 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 the characters’ lives in North America and Burkina Faso. The story highlights just how valuable bicycles are as a mode of transportation all over the world, and how our actions can make a difference in other people’s lives. This book also offers character education lessons on caring, compassion and empathy.