The Bicycle Spy

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Germans have moved into Marcel's town and they are making everyone uneasy. It's the 1940s and Europe is a dangerous place especially for anyone who is of the Jewish faith. Marcel's parents run a bakery and every so often they send him off with a loaf of bread and explicit instructions on who he should take it to.

Marcel dreams of competing in the Tour de France. His bakery delivery runs are practice for him on his bicycle. Then, one day he discovers the truth of what he is being asked to do.

A new girl, Delphine, l shows up in town and then in his class at school. Turns out she can ride a bicycle like the wind and she knows how to repair them, too.  The two quickly become good friends.

Prejudice and fear are ruling this town. The German soldiers are getting more and more oppressive and are coming closer and closer to Marcel and his friend, Delphine, two children with secrets that may mean life or death.

More informational than heartfelt this is a stark tale of the desperation and the courage in France during the 1940s.

193 pages Ages 9-12 978-0545850957

Read alikes: Number the Stars; Honey Cake by Joan Betty Stuchner

Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com

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Marcel's parents run a bakery, so it's not unusual for them to ask him to deliver bread. He loves to ride his bike, and is a big fan of the Tour de France, so he often imagines that he is riding in it while on his errands.

Because it is 1942 and the Nazis have invaded France, there has been no race, and there are lots of shortages and rationing. His mother is able to bake pan d'epice (gingerbread) for him to give to German guards when he is out delivering, and he soon finds out why-- his parents are members of the Resistance, and he is delivering messages for them! At school, he makes a friend in new student Delphine, who is also a fan of the Tour de France, and the two spend a lot of time together, playing cards, studying, and riding bikes.

When Delphine confides in Marcel that she is Jewish and her family has been trying to escape the Nazis, he takes her very seriously. Eventually, a mean classmate finds out, and her family is on the run again. Marcel's parents have connections that could help the family get to Spain, and Marcel's skills as a bicycle spy might be the only thing standing between his friend and her family's demise.

Strengths: This was a well-constructed and engaging middle grade novel about a topic which still fascinates readers. Marcel's involvement was realistically portrayed, and exciting to read. Tying in his interest to professional bike racing was inspired. Good length, attractive cover, and a great friendship between Marcel and Delphine make this a historical fiction title that will be easy to get children to read. Weaknesses: There were a couple of uses of "mom" and "kid" that seemed out of place, although I know the words were in use then. Small quibble. What I really think: Our 8th grade studies the Holocaust, and this will be a fantastic book to add to my collection for those classes. It also reads well on its own because of the adventure and the interest in bike riding.

Recommended by: Karen Yingling, Library Media Specialist, Ohio USA

See more of her recommendations: http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com

*************** Marcel loves riding his bicycle, whether he's racing through the streets of his small town in France or making bread deliveries for his parents' bakery. He dreams of someday competing in the Tour de France, the greatest bicycle race. But ever since Germany's occupation of France began two years ago, in 1940, the race has been canceled. Now there are soldiers everywhere, interrupting Marcel's rides with checkpoints and questioning.

Then Marcel learns two big secrets, and he realizes there are worse things about the war than a canceled race. When he later discovers that his friend's entire family is in imminent danger, Marcel knows he can help -- but it will involve taking a risky bicycle ride to pass along covert information. And when nothing ends up going according to plan, it's up to him to keep pedaling and think quickly... because his friend, her family, and his own future hang in the balance.--from the publisher

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