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The Bicycle Spy

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,068 ratings  ·  187 reviews
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.
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 27th 2016 by Scholastic Press
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Mariah I am an elementary librarian, but I taught middle school (6th-8th grades) for 11 years before my 10 years-so-far library gig. I might say 3rd grade…moreI am an elementary librarian, but I taught middle school (6th-8th grades) for 11 years before my 10 years-so-far library gig. I might say 3rd grade teachers might hesitate to read this with their classes . The most offensive phrase in it is "dirty stinking Jew." But third grade seems to be a period of social awakening for many children, and discrimination in this context might be a bit heavy for third grade discussions. I also think this book might be perhaps too simple, though, for students in 8th grade or above, so ideal grades for this book would be 5th, 6th, and 7th grades.(less)

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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  1,068 ratings  ·  187 reviews

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Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found The Bicycle Spy to be very relatable, readers will not only be able to identify with a friendship over a shared interest, but also with the emotions that the main characters experience. It is a good introduction to everyday life during WWII and as a bonus, a short history of the Tour de France is included also.
Kate Willis
I’ve loved everything I’ve read by this author, so when my sisters brought this home from the library (and I suddenly remembered it was on my TBR XD), I was excited to read it. ;)

This book covers a time period in history I knew next to nothing about, so frankly--I was geeking out. :D 1939 France in the “free zone”. Also, the Tour de France? Why have I not heard of this?? :D :D

Because this was packed with fascinating history, it was a little slow in spots, but the author did a good job keeping
Won this well-written book from
As a member of the older generation, I got a pleasure reading this kids book. It would have helped me to understand WW11 ( a bit better) if I had read it during my much younger days. The WW11 kids in Europe were at war too. This story about the bicycle spy is one of them. Great story.
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book at school and at home. It kept me on the edge of my seat guessing and guessing some more what will happen to this boy who loves the Tour de France and can never put his bike down. He meets up with a girl who had a secret identity and they have two things in common no. One they both love bikes and number two they hate the nazis. Delphine Gillette the girl knows that she's being hunted and Marcel does too. One day Marcel finds out that his parents are in the French ...more
Ms. Yingling
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Marcel's parents run a bakery, so it's not unusual for them to ask him to deliver bread. He loves to ride his bike, and is a big fan of the Tour de France, so he often imagines that he is riding in it while on his errands. Because it is 1942 and the Nazis have invaded France, there has been no race, and there are lots of shortages and rationing. His mother is able to bake pan d'epice (gingerbread) for him to give to German guards when he is out delivering,
Sadie Forsythe
Now, this is written for 3rd to 7th graders, according to the info page in the front of the book. So, I’m hardly the target demographic, being almost 40 and all. But I want to give it to my 9yo and be able to discuss it with her, so I went ahead and read it too. The writing is appropriately simple and it trims some very thick themes into fairly thin ideas, such that a child can grasp it.

I do think it shies away from really engaging the subject matter. Because of this I think they’d need a little
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Twelve-year-old Marcel loves dreaming about the Tour de France bicycle race, even though it is canceled now due to the German occupation of France during World War II. Marcel learns of his parents' participation in the Resistance and becomes a part of it due to his delivery of his parents' baked goods which conceal hidden messages. He befriends a new girl in his class who loves cycling just as much as he does and when he discovers she is Jewish, he becomes painfully aware of his classmates' ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Under 200 pages + male protagonist + vague cover = a book I am going to read with student-readers in mind.

ONCE is a huge Holocaust-themed success in my classroom for a variety of reasons: short chapters, brisk pacing, some hair-raising moments, but all in all satisfying and fairly innocent. THE BICYCLE SPY maintains the innocence of ONCE but doesn't have the pacing or the intensity that my readers tend to look for in their books. The main character Marcel's scrapes with danger are really only
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Twelve-year-old Marcel loves the tour-de-France. Unfortunately it is during World War II and the race has been suspended. Still Marcel delivers packages for his Mother- loaves of bread from their bakery, racing his bike around his French town and countryside at full speed, imagining it is him in the race. One day he is so hungry he breaks open a loaf before delivering it to his aunt. Inside he finds a message that seems to be in some sort of code. Could his parents be part of the French ...more
Mr. Gottshalk
Nov 28, 2016 rated it liked it
This is the second book I've read this month that has to do with the Nazi occupation of France in the early 1940's. Imagine a world where you can't talk on the phone because someone is listening in, you can't really travel anywhere because there are soldiers patrolling the streets, and you can't be friends with Jewish people. Marcel, the boy in this book, takes a lot of risks riding his bike all around the place, secretly delivering messages that he doesn't know about at first. But things get a ...more
Carly Friedman
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: with-miriam
I really enjoyed this brilliant little book. Marcel is a young teenager in France during WWII. He figures out that his parents, who own a bakery in the small town of Aucoin, are part of the French Resistance. He begins to help the cause as well and then has to be even more brave to help a dear friend. I loved the parts about bicycles and the Tour de France.

This was a great reading experience with my daughter. We loved the characters and the themes of courage, friendship, self-sacrifice, and
Alex  Baugh
It's November 1942, and Marcel Christophe, 12, has one dream - to ride in the famous bike race the Tour de France when he gets older. For now, though, he must be content with practicing on his bicycle, riding to school and delivering bread to customers of his parents' bakery. The race has been cancelled since the Nazis began occupying northern France in 1940, but Marcel knows it will be back after the war is over. Now, however, the Nazis have also invaded the southern part of France where Marcel ...more
Riley Thomas
1. The US President has learned that you’ve read this book and wants to know one thing a main character discovered about life that you think all Americans should know. What would you tell him? Why?

In 1942 Marcel is a young boy going through life during World War II. He is fascinated with the Tour de France and loves to ride his bike, “training” to someday race in the big event. He ends up using his bicycle skills by helping his parents fight/resist the Nazi’s by delivering baked goods to other
Anastasia Tuckness
Marcel, who lives in southern France in 1942, loves riding his bicycle and dreams of someday racing in the Tour de France. Unfortunately, the race has been cancelled the last few years because of World War II. Otherwise, his small town seems mostly unaffected by the war, up until two events change Marcel's life quite drastically. First, his parents (who own a bakery) start asking him to deliver bread on his bicycle, and these deliveries often seem sort of strange--until Marcel figures out that ...more
Reading is my Escape
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Audiobook/Library Copy

A gust of wind cut across Marcel's face as he cycled furiously down the street.
- first sentence

Marcel lives in German-occupied France in 1942. He is obsessed with cycling and with the Tour de France (which has been canceled for the past two years). But he soon discovers two secrets that make the race seem unimportant. First, his parents are part of the revolution and second, his friend Delphine is actually Jewish. Riding his bike, Marcel
This is a good book that meets one of the challenges of how to portray the Nazi era for those just beginning to learn about it. It highlights one boy's struggle in a small French town after German occupation. After delivering several loaves of bread for his mother who runs the town's bakery, he figures out that secret notes are being baked into the bread, and realizes his parents are part of the resistance. He keeps the secret even from them, but with the entrance of a new girl in his class at ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs, owned
Full review posted on my blog, Blackplume

Set in France during World War II, The Bicycle Spy tells the story of a 12-year-old Marcel Christophe. Marcel is a good biker and he dreams of entering the Tour de France someday. But with the German ruling his country his dream suddenly becomes impossible. The race has been canceled indefinitely, Nazis are everywhere, soldiers are guarding every streets and they no longer feel safe in their own place. And It become more complicated when he found out
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are many books written for children about World War II and Nazi Germany and it is a period of history that fascinates children and adults alike. Yet there are not many books written for children from the perspective of the resistance fighters in France and McDonough has crafted a well-constructed and engaging novel. The greatest strength of this novel can be found in its characterisation. Marcel and Delphine engage in a friendship borne out of a common interest in bicycle riding and the ...more
Bev Anderson
Marcel, a 12 year old French boy, loves to ride his bicycle and dreams of the day he can ride in the Tour de France bicycle race. However, it is 1942 and the Germans are now occupying France. The small village where Marcel and his parents live has not yet seen the full impact of the German occupation. His parents own a bakery and Marcel enjoys delivering baked goods on his bicycle. One day he accidentally discovers a message hidden in a loaf of bread baked by his parents. He soon realizes that ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good introduction to life in Europe during WWll.
There is enough suspense to keep the book interesting and enough facts to inform readers about some of the hardships of WWll without being too graphic for younger readers.
Different voices used by the reader added to the enjoyment of the book.
Interesting facts about bicycling and the Tour de France would appeal to kids who enjoy cycling. Marcel's love of cycling and his dream of one day competing in the Tour de France helped him when he felt
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Although I'm not sure I'd call this book a big stand-out in comparison to other books of its type, I do think it's important for kids to read pieces of historical fiction like this one, starting at a young age. I've always been interested in WWII and the Holocaust, even as a child, so I'm sure I would have enjoyed reading this back then as well. I could have done with a bit more tension and a few more plot twists, but considering the age group the book is targeted at, it's definitely a solid ...more
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a real gift to my fourth grade classroom. I have many students who are interested in history, who are ready to think about themes like courage in the face of darkest evil, but still require accessible language. This is the perfect next step for students who have exhausted the I Survived series but aren't quite ready for Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. McDonough hit the sweet spot . This will surely be a classroom favorite this year.
This middle grade novel was a little too simplistic for me to really enjoy. There's some good material to discuss bullying and courage and doing the right thing even when it's hard and scary. But, I would definitely put this in the 8-10 range instead of the 10-12 range. If you're looking for a good WWII book, Number The Stars by Lowry or The Winged Watchman by Hilda von Stockum are both more engaging. But, this one is not bad, it was a quick, easy read.
Hazel (Stay Bookish)
The Bicycle Spy is a simple middle grade story that transports the reader to Paris during the German's invasion and shows hope and friendship during a time of tension and distress. Although I think this may be a good historical fiction starter for young readers, I do feel that it won't be as impressive for those seeking depth and excellent prose. I did like the strong setting and compassionate characters though!
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Final selection for my classroom book clubs (6 in all for my first year) and this goes into the "favorite" pile! Set in a small French town during World War 2, Marcel helps his parents (who are part of the French Resistance) pass notes to other Resistance members, and in turn helps a friend escape to the safety of Spain. Great read!
Liam Rogers
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought it was a pretty good book, very short and my only complaint is the ending. The ending feels like the book was hastily finished. I feel like good books always has an ending that leaves you satisfied and kinda thinking.
May 22, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Nice story, well written, good characters, positive theme. It’s basically Number the Stars with a boy, a bicycle, and France. But enjoyable and a good read.
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwii
Pretty tame, but probably a good way to introduce younger readers (pre-middle grade) to WWII - especially those who aren’t ready for the really harrowing stuff.
Coretta Loughmiller
Oct 21, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marcel is a pretty typical twelve-year-old French boy, who loves riding his bike, racing his friends, and all things having to do with the Tour de France. In 1942, though, the Tour de France is not happening, still cancelled because of the Nazi occupation. Marcel has to be content with his dreams of someday riding in the race as he pedals to school and around town, delivering bread for his parents who run a bakery. He discovers a cryptic note hidden in a loaf and realizes his parents are ...more
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I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn and many of my novels take place here. But my new novel takes place in New Hampshire, and I have woven into it a historical component: the tragic story of Ruth Blay, who in 1768 was the last woman hanged in the state. When I read about Ruth, I was fascinated and horrified in equal measure, and I knew I had to write about her.
I was educated at Vassar College and
“participated in the grueling competition, which was broken up into stages and went on for days. But in the spring of 1940, Germany invaded France, and shortly after that, the German army marched into Paris. The Tours de France had been canceled indefinitely. Now it was 1942, and the Occupation had dragged on for two long years. Who knew how long it would last or when the race would start up again? The bumpy cobblestones made the bike shake. But Marcel wouldn’t let that stop him. He knew that in 1939, the spring classic Paris-Roubaix bicycle race included fifteen or more cobbled sections as part of the grueling 200-plus kilometer course. Some were even steep hills. He had just rounded the corner of the street where Madame Trottier lived when suddenly a streak of orange flashed across the road. Zut alors! He jammed his feet on the brakes hard and” 1 likes
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