THE BICYCLE MAN by Allen Say
Kirkus Star

THE BICYCLE MAN

KIRKUS REVIEW

A delightful story, reportedly a memory from Say's childhood, of the children's first encounter with American soldiers at a 1946 spring sports day in a Japanese elementary school. Say shows us charming little figures, with just a whiff of resemblance to early Sendak tykes, rushing about in streaming red headbands: preparing the playground, then dashing around the track in the first-grader's race, and later racing piggyback and pulling in the tug-of-war. Boxed prizes are awarded, and then we see the families picnicking on their mats, unloading spiced rice and fish cakes and other "good things to eat" from their layered lacquer boxes. It is during the grownups' three-legged race that the soldiers appear--one of them "with bright hair like fire," the other "black as the earth" and "the tallest man I had ever seen. And his clothes! Such sharp creases! And his shoes shone like polished metal!" Borrowing the principal's bicycle, the black American then puts on a show that leaves the crowd agape--from the first wheelie ("What an athlete!" exclaims the art teacher) to the flying finale. When the cheering stops, the principal leads the soldier to the platform and presents him with the largest box from the prize table. Handing it over, "He looked like the emperor awarding a great champion." And so, with an "Ari-ga-tow, ari-ga-tow" (thank you, thank you), the two soldiers go off down the mountain, "waving and laughing." Say makes no comments and none are needed. Savor it, share it, and let the Japanese traditions and the wonderful meetings speak for themselves.
Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1982
ISBN: 0395506522
Page count: 52pp
Publisher: Mount Parnassus Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1982




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