The patchwork bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke

cover image

Ill. by Van T Rudd. Hachette, 2016. ISBN 9780734416681
(Age: all) Highly (Highly x 2) recommended. Humour. Africa. Ingenuity. Working together. Families. Village life. On the edge of the No-Go desert, there is not much to work with to have some fun with your friends. But this one boy and his brothers find much to keep themselves occupied, whether it be sliding down the sandhill, climbing the Fiori tree, or avoiding their fed up mum. But the best thing is riding the bike he and his brothers made, with its bent bucket seat, handlebar made from twining branches, tin pot handles and wood cut out wheels. The boys can go anywhere in their bike, over the sand hills, or riding through the village or the fields. Many times they must stop and do some running repairs, but they always have a lot of fun.
The infectiously funny story of boys and their home-made bike will invite comment and delight as younger readers marvel at their ingenuity and will eagerly try to replicate what the boys have done.
The illustrations are wondrous, with their thick black outlines and block colours rendered on recycled cardboard with intriguing stickers on each piece. The background of the village with its mud-for-walls houses, sparse fields, few trees, sand hills and abandoned car will alert the readers to the paucity of these children's lives, and perhaps make them reflect on the richness of their own. The stunning illustrations will provide a talking point for the reader as they hunt out clues about the lives of these boys, and perhaps think about why the long suffering mother is fed up. I love the introduction of speed using a bold brush of colour across the page and was further intrigued by the use of shadows throughout the book, underlining the heat of the day. There are very few picture books available for our students set in Africa and this makes a welcome addition to any class looking at children outside their own experience.
Clarke has had many short stories, non fiction and poetry published in Australia and this is her first picture book. The illustrator, Rudd, too presents his first picture book for us, and I can only hope they produce more.
Fran Knight