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“Life without friends is not a nice thing, not a nice thing at all,” Sister Wanda. —The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle
The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle
by Christina Uss
Twelve-year-old Bicycle loves living at the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C., and she loves her old orange bike named Clunk. Bicycle’s guardian, Sister Wanda, tries to send Bicycle to the Friendship Factory so she can make friends her age. But Bicycle decides to make a friend on her own terms. With Clunk and her backpack, Bicycle sets off for San Francisco where her cycling idol will be attending the Blessing of the Bicycles. Bicycle is determined to befriend someone who loves biking as much as her. With racing pigs, a ghost, pies, and a little bit of luck, Bicycle learns that friends can be made anywhere and that sometimes we must make our own luck.
The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle is a wild tale that follows Bicycle and her journey across the United States. Bicycle’s time living at the Mostly Silent Monastery helps her navigate conflicts along her adventure, and she uses her excellent listening skills to help people with their problems. Because Bicycle shows others kindness, she is able to make friends. Bicycle receives plenty of help from strangers along the way and forms meaningful connections with people she otherwise would never have met.
There are some fantastical elements to the story. For example, on the first night of her trip, Bicycle meets a Civil War-era ghost who hitches a ride on the bike’s handlebars so he can return to Missouri, where his old friend set up a pie shop. The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle also discusses how luck and fortune influence people’s lives. Although the story doesn’t take any particular stance, it is clear that Bicycle helps make her own luck by being proactive and determined enough to seek out what she wants, which is friendship.
The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle is all told in the third person but focuses mostly on Bicycle’s thoughts and feelings. Bicycle is a great example of a kindhearted and determined protagonist. Overall, Bicycle’s story is funny and lighthearted while showing her adventures across the United States and explaining the importance of friendship and listening. The story’s adventure includes a bit of mystery and magic while also focusing on fortune and its influence on life.
Bicycle’s desire to make friends is universal, which makes it a good choice for readers of all ages. The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle is the best kind of quirky, upbeat story. The wit and heart of the book will certainly bring a smile to readers’ faces. Readers who want another unique story that explores the topic of luck should read Fortune Falls by Jenny Goebel.
- While in the Ozarks, Bicycle gets run over in a pig stampede. She “tried to jump off Clunk [her bike] and get out of the way, but one sock caught on the edge of a pedal . . . The dust started to swirl around her, blinding her. Then she was flying through the air and everything went dark.”
- Bicycle acquires a new bike that has a red button on it. When she touches it, the bike’s screen says to not press the button because it will use the “missile launcher.” When this feature is accidentally used, the missile turns out to be a rubber snake.
- Three teenage boys help Bicycle chase off a lady who tries to steal Bicycle’s bike. They “began pelting the lady in black with rotten tomatoes.”
- Bicycle learns from Dr. Alvarado that the government had wanted Dr. Alvarado to build “tanks” and “explosives” rather than bicycles, but he turned them down.
- A Girl Explorer in Yosemite National Park tries to forcibly paint Bicycle’s nails. When she ignores Bicycle’s request to stop, Bicycle “kicked the cell-phone girl in the shin.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Two older folks that Bicycle meets have a generations-long feud. One lady calls her rival a “dunderheaded lummox,” while he calls her an “old turkey.”
- Profanity is used minimally. Profanity includes durned and fools.
- Bicycle asks her friend, Chef Marie, about a horse. Chef Marie jokingly refers to the horse as “that fatty” because of how much he eats.
- On the first night of her cross-country bike trip, Bicycle meets a ghost. She discovers this fact when she hands him a piece of chocolate and it “dropped right through his palm onto the ground.” The ghost would like to visit the Ozarks, and Bicycle lets him come along on her journey.
- After losing her beloved bike, Clunk, Bicycle thinks of herself “like [she] was a centaur, one of those half-human, half-horse creatures you see in mythology books. But [she] used to be half-human, half-bicycle. Now [she’s] just a plain old regular human.”
- In Kansas, Bicycle encounters an estate sale. The man who had owned it, Dr. Luck Alvarado, was obsessed with “studying luck, or fate, or destiny . . . Trying to understand how you can measure a person’s luck, whether you can alter it, and whether luck somehow controls the path of our lives.” Luck, and how luck works, is a main theme of the book.
- The sisters at the Mostly Silent Monastery adopt Bicycle, and she is raised by retired Sister Wanda Magdalena. The Monastery was founded “centuries ago by a monk named Bob.”
- Many of the sisters and monks break their Mostly Silent vows, and these infractions are played for comedic effect. For instance, Brother Otto nearly runs over a bright orange bike, and he exclaims, “Well, that’s fate!” It is then mentioned after, “Brother Otto simply wasn’t cut out to be Mostly Silent.”
- After pelting Sister Wanda with rotten tomatoes, the teenage boys helping Bicycle say, “Holy cow—we’re breaking like seven different commandments!” They then flee the scene.
- Bicycle and Sister Wanda get bagels from “the loneliest Jewish Deli in America.”
- The event that Bicycle’s favorite cyclist is attending is called “The Blessing of the Bicycles.” Various religious leaders from many religions end up blessing every bicycle that comes to the event, praying in “many different languages” for safe journeys ahead.
by Alli Kestler