Paolo Crivelli fantasizes about joining his father in the resistance as he rides his bike through the Nazi-occupied streets of Florence, Italy during World War II. His dad has recently gone underground for his own safety and Paolo's mother is more anxious than ever—worrying about her husband, Paolo's nighttime bicycle rides through a dangerous countryside, her daughter Constanza's apparent emotional withdrawal from the family and her friendly relationships with Nazi occupiers, the escalating action as Allied liberators make gains throughout 1944, and now the menacing demands of the local partisans that she shelter escaped prisoners of war and help them return to their Ally units. Although Paolo and his bicycle exploits get top billing, the power of this novel lies in the skillfully interwoven activities of the three Crivellis, each of whom keeps innermost thoughts private, and each of whom musters daring and split-second decisions that keep the pace lively and readers turning the pages. Hughes offers a far more nuanced view of partisan fighters than often appears in children's World War II dramas—they're heroic, certainly, but they're also willing to use dire threats and physical force to coerce civilians into activities that put them in mortal peril. Skillful plotting, with a number of well-placed chapter cliffhangers, and a deftly conveyed sense of place make this a strong choice for historical fiction readers.
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Hughes, Shirley. Hero on a Bicycle. Candlewick, 2013 [224p]. Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-7636-6037-6 $15.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-7636-6359-9 $15.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 5-9.
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