The Bicycle Spy

by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Author)

The Bicycle Spy
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade
Can Marcel make the ride of his life?
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.
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School Library Journal

Gr 4-6--It is 1942 in German-occupied France. The Tour de France has been cancelled for the last two years, and Marcel, a young French boy, must keep two very big secrets: his parents are part of the resistance, and the new girl in town, a friend and fellow bicycle enthusiast, tells him that she is Jewish. Marcel must decide if he will help his new friend, even if it means putting his life and the lives of his parents at risk. This story takes readers on a historical adventure as they follow Marcel, astride his trusty bicycle, along the streets of German-occupied France. History seamlessly meets fiction as readers learn about a snippet of life in World War II Europe. Marcel is often frightened when he has to go through various checkpoints, where soldiers question his every move. However, he uses his love for cycling to get him through these dangerous times. The brief histories provided at the end of the story and the glossary of terms offer additional background and support for students just learning about this time period. VERDICT This would be a great resource in a World War II unit. Students will become engrossed in Marcel's exploits as he attempts to save his family from an awful fate.--Elizabeth Anne Ragain, Springfield Public Schools, MO

Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

A winning protagonist propels this WWII adventure, which is set in 1942 in a Nazi-occupied French village. Diminutive yet determined 12-year-old Marcel loves to ride his bicycle and adores the Tour de France, which has been suspended because of the war. Marcel imagines himself on the Tour as he delivers bread for his baker parents, slipping sweets to armed guards to win their cooperation. McDonough (Little Author in the Big Woods) effectively escalates the conflict as Marcel discovers coded messages inside the loaves and realizes that his parents are members of the Resistance. Marcel forms a fast friendship with Delphine, a clever girl who shares his love of biking, and later discovers her family's Jewish heritage, which puts them in grave danger. Some narrative elements feel rushed, such as how quickly Marcel and Delphine disclose their families' secrets to each other, but readers should be riveted as Marcel encourages his parents to help Delphine's family escape and helps put a daring rescue into action. This engrossing introduction to WWII also includes a glossary, historical notes, and reading suggestions. Ages 8-12. Agent: Judith Ehrlich, Judith Ehrlich Literary Management. (Sept.)

Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Advance Praise for The Bicycle Spy

"A fine story of war, friendship, and taking a stand against injustice." — Kirkus Reviews

"History seamlessly meets fiction as readers learn about a snippet of life in World War II Europe. ... Students will become engrossed in Marcel's exploits." — School Library Journal

"Clearly written, suspenseful, and accessible to a younger audience ... An engaging story." — Booklist
Yona Zeldis McDonough

Yona Zeldis McDonough is the author of many books for children, including Sisters in Strength, Anne Frank, and Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott. Ms. McDonough lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Jennifer Thermes is the author and illustrator of When I Was Built and Sam Bennett's New Shoes, which was a Bank Street College Best Children's Book. Her books as illustrator include the middle-grade novel Maggie & Oliver and The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! Jennifer also creates illustrated maps for magazine and book publishing clients.

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Scholastic Press
Publication date
April 20, 2020
BISAC categories
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
JUV016040 - Juvenile Fiction | Historical | Europe
JUV032180 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Cycling
Library of Congress categories
20th century
Adventure and adventurers
Adventure stories
Family life
World War, 1939-1945
German occupation, 1940-1945
Underground movements
War stories
Bicycles and bicycling
Action and adventure fiction

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