Hero on a Bicycle: A Novel. by Shirley Hughes
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Hero on a Bicycle: A Novel. by Shirley Hughes

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  260 ratings  ·  84 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...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Walker & Company (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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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
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...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...more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Check this review out and others on my blog: Get Real.

This was a really nice story about a family living in Fascist Italy during World War II. For a book geared toward grades four to six, the author made the surprising decision to tell this story in alternating third-person limited point of view. The transitions between character perspectives were seamless and provided greater insight into what 13-year-old Paolo and his mother and sister went through as they dealt with harassment from Nazis and...more
Judy Desetti
Oct 13, 2013 Judy Desetti rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: those who enjoyed The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Recommended to Judy by: SLJ review

The story is of a family just before the allies liberated Florence. The family has a father who has gone off with the partisans while they are left to deal with life under Nazi rule. The mother is English so they are under constant scrutiny of the neighbors and the Nazi Gestapo. Paoblo is only 13 years old and dreams of being a hero on his bicycle but life seems pretty dull until ..... the family is contacted to help escaped prisoners of war.

I listened to this audio book. Fabulous st...more
This Saturday I was feeling rather under the weather, and then something arrived in the mail that was just what I needed: two MG books from Candlewick Press, one of which was Hero on a Bicycle. "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 pressured into harboring escaping POWs, Paolo and Costanza each find a part to play in opposing the Germ...more
Florence, Italy is occupied by the Nazis in 1944, and thirteen-year-old Paolo Crivelli is bored and looking for adventure. Each night he slips outside the family's house and rides along the streets on his bicycle. Inevitably, adventure--more than he ever wanted--comes his way through encounters with the Partisans who are rebelling against the Nazi occupation and with the Nazis. As Paolo, his mother, and his older sister Constanza are drawn increasingly into the Partisan efforts, the war comes cl...more
Maureen Milton
A big fan of Shirley Hughes's picture books, I ordered "Hero On A Bicycle" as soon as I read the positive NY Times review.

In her introduction, Hughes briefly recounts her own experience at 19 years old in war-torn Italy after WWII.

Despite Hughes's effort to delineate the complicated loyalties and predicaments that emerge in times of war, the plot was thin, the setting a mere sketch, and, while sympathetic, the characters seemed only partially realized. The whole book felt too restrained, as thou...more
I received my introduction to Shirley Hughes through an advance reading copy (ARC) of “Hero On a Bicycle” from Candlewick Press and Goodreads Fristreads.

In my opinion “Hero On a Bicycle” was written for a reader who is in the range of eight to twelve years old. As an adult reader I did find it overly simplistic and would have enjoyed greater character and plot development. Putting that aside and keeping in mind the target audience I did enjoy the novel and the overall story.

Shirley Hughes crea...more
**Spoil Alert*
The Hero on a Bicycle is a good book to read.I liked this book because it is a historical,action, and adventure. Some words i didnt understand because they were in Italian or in German.

In world war 2 a boy named Paolo and his mom and sister lived in Florence, Italy.The Nazis came and tried to take over, but Partisans helped protect Florence and its people. Poalo's dad left his family a long time ago to join the Partisans. Until one night when Poalo was taking his usual dangerous n...more
Having shared and enjoyed Shirley Hughes’s charming picture books with my two sons when they were young I was keen to read her first novel for children but not sure what to expect as this sounded such a departure from her previous work. Happily, I am able to say that this exciting story set during the Second World War did not disappoint.

Unlike most WW2 stories for this age group this book is set in Italy in 1944 and the author makes use of her personal experience of Florence and the surrounding...more
The Styling Librarian
Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes – Historical Fiction, 5th grade and up – Well, I really enjoyed this book but I know I’m really weary of heartbreaking historical fiction books. Fascinating to read the book and hear the perspective of a boy who innocently approached life, until he was in the thick of a war with the horrible reality surrounding him. This was the last of 20 titles I read for the Hong Kong Battle of the Books this year. What a fantastic, heartwrenching book to get lost in… Porti...more
Florence, Italy, 1944, is occupied by Nazi forces. The Partisans are working behind the scenes hampering German troop movement and helping escaped Allied prisoners of war rejoin their troops. Thirteen-year- old Paolo,his sister, Costanza, and their mother are harboring escaping POWs. As the Germans advance and the front line grows nearer, Paolo, and his family does all they can to help the Allies.

The intended audience of this book is middle-grade fans of history and adventure. Not know any midd...more
Pablo thinks of the war as tedious and longs to become somehow caught up in it. His father has been off fighting with the Italian resistance movement for years, leaving Pablo home with his mother, older sister, and cook. The fighting in Italy is heavy, as the Allies make their way across the country. Pablo's mother, an English woman, agrees to hide POWs; when one is injured, the family is pulled into hiding and protecting him--and eventually helping him escape. Pablo is instrumental in the succe...more
This young adult novel gave a great perspective on what a child might have felt like during WWII. Paolo and Constanza are trying to live as normally as possible, but want to help the Italian Resistance as well. Most of the story was interesting and I loved the characters, but the beginning really dragged on. If Hughes had picked up the pace at the beginning this could have been a 4 or 5 star book.
Paulo's family does not agree with the Italian government's alliance with the German powers of World War II. His father has become a Partisan, a member of the Italian underground resistance. The family hasn't seen him in a long while. Paulo himself is desperate to do something to help the resistance. But he's only 13 and has no way to get around except his bicycle.

Then his mother is asked by the Partisans to hide 2 allied soldiers overnight. She really doesn't have an option. When Paulo tries to...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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