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Hero on a bicycle

by Shirley Hughes

Publishers Weekly After more than 50 years of writing and illustrating children's books, two-time Greenaway Medal-winner Hughes delivers her first novel, a tense and emotional thriller set during the German occupation of Florence in 1944, near the end of WWII. With an absent father and a British mother, 13-year-old Paolo Crivelli and his 16-year-old sister, Constanza, suffer isolation and scrutiny under the tight security of the Nazis and their neighbors' suspicion (their father is believed to be a Partisan, part of the pro-Allied resistance). Paolo secretly violates the city's curfew each night to ride his bicycle across town, and Partisans approach him one evening, setting in motion their plan to have Paolo's mother harbor escaped Allied prisoners of war. The third-person narration shifts smoothly among Paolo, Constanza, and their mother, giving readers profound insight and perspective on their individual worries and pressures, as their situation becomes all the more perilous. The Italian setting is vibrantly presented, and Hughes creates both a memorable cast and a palpable sense of danger at a critical juncture of the war. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list The resistance movement in WWII Italy is the backdrop for a beloved picture-book creator's first full-length novel. In 1944, with Nazi soldiers occupying the city and their father away, teens Paolo and Costanza Crivelli are bored. Paolo, 13, sneaks out to bike through the streets of Florence at night, seeking adventure, avoiding the occupying Germans, and hoping to meet his heroes, the Partisans, while his 16-year-old sister sulks in her room. In spite of their mother's attempts to shelter them, the war comes far too close when their mother, already under suspicion because of her English background and her husband's known anti-Fascist views, reluctantly agrees to hide a pair of escaped prisoners of war. Soon Paolo becomes part of the escape strategy, and his bicycle becomes a Partisan tool. An omniscient narrator switches focus among the three family members as the action takes place in and under the family villa, in dark city streets, and in the surrounding countryside. The mounting suspense will keep readers turning pages. An absorbing survival adventure.--Isaacs, Kathleen Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 5-8-For 13-year-old Paolo Crivelli, the excitement of planning secret nightly trips into Florence balances the boredom and stress of living under Nazi occupation in a war-torn village outside the city. Because his mother, Rosemary, is English, she senses the town's suspicions of her. Paolo's father has joined the Partisans, a secret group working to sabotage the Nazis. For Rosemary, keeping her family safe is a daunting task, and she desperately misses her husband's strength and confidence. Then the Partisans ask her to hide two Allied soldiers who have escaped from the Germans. Though reluctant to jeopardize her family's safety, she feels she has no choice. As the excitement escalates, the characters struggle to be courageous while wrestling with life-threatening decisions. They have been living under harsh conditions and with the awareness that Nazi sympathizers are among their neighbors. Once the Allied soldiers are with the Crivellis, intrigue and mystery mount. Both Paolo and his sister, Constanza, do what is necessary, though there is underlying resentment by them and their mother that their father has chosen to follow his beliefs instead of staying to protect them. In this engrossing story, Hughes combines a riveting plotline with multidimensional characters. It also provides youngsters with some understanding of the choices and conditions faced by people in Europe during World War II. It's a good follow-up to Donna Jo Napoli's Stones in the Water (1997) and its sequel, Fire in the Hills (2006, both Dutton).-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.