Hero on a Bicycle

Written by Shirley Hughes
Review by Anne Clinard Barnhill

In 1944, Florence, Italy, is under Nazi occupation, and 13-year-old Paolo is the man of the house since his father has disappeared into the wilds to join the Resistance. Antsy and too young to join himself, Paolo seeks adventure and wants to do his part to defend his family. He escapes the boredom of home by riding his bicycle late at night, when his mother and sister are sleeping. It’s thrilling to sneak out the window and soar through the darkened streets, avoiding Nazi patrols and thieves.

However, his escapades come to an abrupt end when he is accosted by grown men who are members of the covert anti-Nazi movement. Once these men get hold of Paolo, his real adventures begin. But does he have the courage and skill to be a real hero?

Taut, tense and vivid, this book will bring out the hero in any young boy or girl. You can almost hear the tanks rolling by and the fighter planes zooming overhead. And it’s a nice surprise to discover that Paolo is not the only hero found in Florence. The others might catch you unaware. The story is dramatically told, with warm and believable characters. Hughes captures the fears and frustrations of a young person thrust into war.