The Patchwork Bike (Maxine Beneba Clarke, illus by Van T Rudd, Lothian)
This deceptively simple story by author Maxine Beneba Clarke is beautifully written and incredibly powerful. It uses evocative language and onomatopoeia to flesh out a world so physically different from most Australian lives, but its universal appeal comes from anchoring the story to the experience of owning a bike. Written from the perspective of a child, we know little about her world other than she lives in a ‘mud-for-walls’ home in a village surrounded by ‘no-go desert’ and ‘stretching-out sky’. The bike she shares with her cheeky brothers has been cobbled together from scavenged objects—handlebars from branches, a bell from mother’s milk pot, and a flag made from a flour sack. The illustrations by artist Van T Rudd of paint on cardboard are stark and simple, often quite abstract, but they effectively flesh out this world. Like all the best writing, The Patchwork Bike asks more questions than it answers, making it a great conversation starter to learn more about other cultures, but it’s also a delightful picture book for kids aged three and up that depicts the universal joy that riding a bike bestows. If it isn’t shortlisted for a CBCA Award in the coming year, I will be very disappointed.
Angela Crocombe is the children’s buyer at Readings Carlton