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Hero on a Bicycle

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  432 ratings  ·  121 reviews
In her first novel, beloved author Shirley Hughes presents a World War II adventure proving that in extraordinary circumstances, people are capable of extraordinary things.

Italy, 1944: Florence is occupied by Nazi forces. The Italian resistance movement has not given up hope, though — and neither have thirteen-year- old Paolo and his sister, Costanza. As their mother is pr
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published April 23rd 2013 by Candlewick Press (first published April 19th 2012)
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I was excited to get this ARC, as I loved reading Hughes' "Alfie" books with my children and was interested to see what she would do with her first novel. The story is set late in World War II just outside of Nazi-occupied Florence, Italy. The heroic family are sympathetic to the Partisans (Babbo is off somewhere working with them) but cautiously keeping their sentiments under wraps, as their situation is perilous. Nonetheless, they become entangled in an effort to help prisoners of war escape a ...more
The Royal ME
I read this a long time ago, and I can't remember if I liked it or not, so I'm giving it three stars.
LH Johnson
The thing about Shirley Hughes is that she's one of the authors that you think you know. And in a way, you do. When you think Shirley Hughes, you think of things like Dogger, of Alfie, of my Naughty Little Sister and her puckishly naughty face. She's a doyenne of children's literature and for good reason. Hughes has come to be one of those writers / illustrators that crosses borders and escapes the echo chamber and has become pretty much instantly recognisable to anybody who's ever had a kid, be ...more

By: Shirley Hughes. Grade: A

The title, Hero on a Bicycle, actually sounds a little strange when you hear it for the first time. But when I saw the pretty cover of the book, and read the well written and intriguing blurb, I was immediately interested. One, because I love history- especially that of the second World War period and Nazism. Two, because I haven't really read much material on how the Second World War impacted Italy- or any other European country apart from Germany, so I was just a li
Alex Baugh
The events in Italy during WWII aren't often written about in kidlit. To date, I have only written about two books where the action takes place in Italy. The first was Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli, an MG story about an Italian boy rounded up in the cinema while watching an American cowboy movie and sent to work in a labor camp in Germany. The second was the excellent picture book I Will Come Back for You by Marisabina Russo, about how a young Jewish girl and her family were helped to survi ...more
Terri Lynn
This "children's book" is entirely appropriate for young adults and adults of all ages. During World War 2 in Florence, Italy, Rosemary Crivelli is an English woman married to an Italian man Franco and the mother of two teens- 17 year old Constanza and 13 year old Paolo. Franco had to run off to hide because of the Gestapo in Nazi occupied Florence so Rosemary has to look after herself, her two kids, the housekeeper/cook Maria, and their elderly dog Guido.

It's a hard life with food rationing and
Shirley Hughes' picture books for children are true works of literature. They have a particular pace that I did see echoes of in this work for young adults but the novel doesn't stand out in the way her picture book stories do. It is a decent enough tale - a bit different in that it is Italian children in WWII - and there was plenty of suspense. I enjoyed the lack of over-simplification - the brutality of the Partisans, the reluctance of the children's mother to help, the relationship with Conta ...more
Book #83 Read in 2013
Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (YA)

This book is set in Florence, Italy in 1944 and tells of the Nazi occupation in that country. Paolo is a young boy whose father is a soldier and has left him in charge of the family. He longs for action and adventure but when he gets some in his life, it is slightly more than he bargained for. Paolo's mother is English and is doing her own war duty in their hometown. This book was a good, quick historical fiction read, especially for m
What a strange little book. I love Shirley Hughes' picture books, but I'm not sure about this transition to books for older readers. Though the subject matter should really make it a middle school read, the somewhat simple text and sparse plot make it more suitable for upper elementary grades; and the theme that good guys can be bad and vice versa is very simplistically presented. The constant switching of POV feels odd, and I just didn't feel engaged by any of the characters. Based on a true st ...more
Mary Louise Sanchez
Thirteen-year-old Paola Crivelli wants to be involved in the war effort in his town near Florence, Italy,because he's bored, there's no school, and his father is a partisan hiding from the Nazis. Paola's chance comes when his British born mother reluctantly agrees that her family will help the partisans hide two Allied soldiers. Paola volunteers to lead the soldiers to Florence on his bike.The Gestapo think the family home is a hiding place but before they come to investigate, Paola's sixteen-ye ...more
Ms. Yingling
Paolo lives outside of Florence, Italy with his sister Costanza and his British mother, Rosemary. His father has been gone for a long time, working with the Partisans who are fighting against the Nazis during World War II. Life is largely dull because school has been canceled and there are always curfews, so Paolo likes to sneak out on his bicycle. During one trip, he is approached by Partisans who want to contact his mother. The family ends up sheltering a British and a Canadian soldier who are ...more
Zhang Xin
At the first sight of the title “Hero on A Bicycle”, I can’t help wondering what the plot will be like: a bicycle races hero or a bicycle make hero. The hero turns out to be a boy named Paolo in an Italian family. Being a 13 year old boy, he dreams of freedom and adventures which was not allowed and encouraged since the then Italy was under sever control of Nazi Germany in World War II. Despite the high risk of involving in great danger, the boy rides out on his bicycle every night, expecting so ...more
This is Shirley Hughes' first novel. It has the storytelling brilliance that anyone who has read her picture books will remember fondly, but is also a very realistic depiction of life in wartime Italy which shows the innate goodness and bravery of people, but doesn't shy away from the complexities and grimness of war.
13 year old Paolo lives in German-occupied Florence with his mother Rosemary and older sister Constanza. Their father, Franco, has been in hiding due to his speaking out against Mu
Based on the title and cover art, I had been expecting this to be more of a Boys Own, thrilling tale of adventure and daring, type story. In actuality, the book presents a much more realistic and grim view of war.

The title character, Paolo, is a young boy from a well to do family fallen on hard times in Florence Italy during WWII who wants to become a hero by finding a way to help the resistance. However, Paolo's mother and sister get as much if not more "screen time" and their fears and concern
This was a VERY short read -- I finished it before my clothes came out of the washer (so it took me about 35 minutes to read).

That said, I think a good historical fiction novel for middle-grades: the suspense feels real and several of the characters are fully formed. The romance between secondary characters fell a bit flat for me--comes lickety split out of nowhere--but that's a problem adult readers would probably all have with this book and some of my students might not even really realize how
I picked up this book because it seemed like an interesting story. I expected it to be at my reading level, so I was surprised when it was written for younger ages. It was an interesting story, and I got so engulfed in it that I read more than 75% of the book in one night. It's a creative setting, and there are probably few other books with characters in that position. It is not too great, and there isn't really one specific problem. Instead, it's always the main character worrying about this an ...more
I am currently reading the book "Hero On A Bicycle" by Shirley Hughes. I have read 20 pages of this book and it's pretty good. I choose to read it for my book report because I love to ride bikes and this book gives an adventure with twist turns and bump as you turn/read every page. Another reason why I choose to read this as my book report is because this book is themed as a child during war that weds some how have a child hood which he does at night in his bike. Lastly I thought this book is gr ...more
Hughes deftly shows the feelings of uncertainty and fear in a small village in Italy towards the end of the war. Paolo's father is gone, believed to have joined the anti- Nazi Partisans. Every night Pablo rides his bike, looking for an adventure. When adventure does take him by surprise he realizes that war time is not a game. The narrative at the beginning of this story was a bit disjointed - each character's point of view was simultaneously described. The audience for this novel is unclear; th ...more
I would recommend this to any young reader - teenage or even pre-teenage - as it is a lively story, giving a convincing account of life in Florence during WWII. I managed to read it in a few hours - it is not meaty, it romps along and carries you with it, but somehow it all seems too easy and neat, despite the dangers that are faced and the excitement and tension that Hughes does manage to convey.
To sum up, she is a GREAT writer for children- her Alfie books have entertained parents and childre
Amanda Harris
Year: 1944
Place: The Outskirts of Florence, Italy
Summary: Nazi German Forces have occupied Florence during WWII

More Details:
The story starts with Paolo, a gutsy, spirited young boy, who consistently makes secret nighttime rides into the city on his bicycle, but always shows up at home before sun up. The problem is that there are soldiers everywhere and once night falls, a curfew is enforced-and anyone caught breaking the rules would be dealt with severely. School is closed and life is very confi
Lauren Rudin
In Florence during World War II, thirteen year old Paolo takes his bike out at night part curfew in order to clear his mind of his father's unknown whereabouts as well as his limitations of play due to war. Yet, his bicycle rides prove to put his family in danger when the Partisans contact his family for help. Paolo becomes a part of the war that he has always dreamed about-- resisting the Nazis. However, his choices have consequences... I did like this book, but for kids! It's very predictable ...more
This is a story of the German occupation of Italy told from the viewpoint of a family in Florence. The story was very interesting. Cole and I read this together and were anxious to find out what was going to happen. The reason we only rated this 2 stars was because the writing was so dense, paragraphs lasted a whole page, sentences lasted a paragraph. The book jacket stated that Shirley Hughes is a well-known children's author and this is her first attempt at a children's novel. (Cole said he'd ...more
Perplexed by a kids book having non-kid narrators, but I enjoyed the other narrators, and there's no RULE that a kids book can't be omniscient third person. It's just not the norm.

Bored by most of this story and skimmed much of it, but there were some suspenseful moments and I do think kids who like historical fiction would like it more than I did. Unfortunately, I am incredibly picky when it comes to historical fiction (because why bother reading it when you can read compelling books of REAL h
Sarah Fuller
The jumping POVs were confusing at first, took a bit to get used to. The subject seemed more mature than it was written which was weird. The protagonist, sort of, seeing as how the author maybe confused herself at times as to her real protagonist was at times, Paolo, was often too childish to believe, like eye roll was too apparent really. Having said all that, I dug it. Good read, just not as good as it coulda been.

Fascinating subject, war and those civilians involved, whether they want to be o
Constance Pappas
I was drawn to this book by the cover (bike) and the author. It was a better than decent historical fiction but bringing my adult sensibilities to the storyline I think some aspects of the story were resolved too fast. I felt like it all took place in a day or two. Not that it needed more explanation, but it was World War II and the family is hiding soldiers; the gestapo cloud would have been more menacing. There are some very strong scenes, but they were too safe. That aside, I think it's a goo ...more
Paolo Crivelli and his family are just trying to survive the Nazi occupation near Florence in 1944. Paolo thinks the war is long and boring, so each night he sneaks out of the house to take a long bike ride. One night he runs into partisans, who are helping to fight against the occupation. They ask his family to harbor a couple of their soldiers. Although this is very dangerous, the family agrees. However, this arrangement puts everyone in the family’s life at risk. Does Paolo and his family hav ...more
It’s 1944 in Florence, and the city is on edge. The streets are overrun with the Gestapo and other Nazis, though the Allies are on their way. In addition, the local Partisans are starting to come out of the woodwork to help the Allies. Thirteen year old Paolo lives with his big sister Constanza and his English mother Rosemary; his Italian father, an opponent of fascism, has disappeared. Desperate for something to do, both to entertain himself and get involved in the action, Paolo has taken to ri ...more
This is a first novel for Shirley Hughes whose Alfie books are such a core part of any childhood bookshelf. She notes in her preface that the novel reflects a time and a place, and people, that she encountered while living in Italy. Paolo Crivelli, his sister Constanza, and their English mother live in Florence just before the Allies chase the Germans out of Italy. They exist in daily fear of the Gestapo, since Franco, Paolo's father, has disappeared and was known to be anti-Nazi before vanishin ...more
In 1944 in Florence, Italy, Rosemary Crivelli, Paolo’s mother… “knew she should remind him of the dangers of what he was doing and forbid him – forbid him – to go out alone again at night, but somehow she could never find the heart to do it…She reflected grimly on the old cliché that wartime, when not terrifying, was a combination of long stretches of boredom and grinding hardship.”

Paolo can’t stand doing nothing. He sneaks out at night to ride his bike through the city –the tension of breaking
I love Shirley Hughes' many picture books. In fact, "Dogger" has long been one of my favorites. So, when I saw that she had written her first novel, I was eager to read it. I was not disappointed. Some years ago, when I home-schooled, we used a curriculum which taught history largely by way of reading historical novels. This was a wonderful approach because stories stick in your mind so much more readily than do dry facts and dates. This book would be a wonderful addition to such a curriculum. M ...more
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Shirley Hughes is the illustrator of more than two hundred children’s books and has won many prestigious awards, including the Kate Greenaway Medal twice. She is the author-illustrator of DON'T WANT TO GO! and OLLY AND ME 1 2 3. She lives in London.
More about Shirley Hughes...
Dogger Alfie Gets in First Ella's Big Chance: A Jazz-Age Cinderella Alfie Gives a Hand The Big Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook

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