An old bike becomes the touchstone for remembering a lost friend.
Best friends Joe and Jay ride their bikes all summer, exploring green and golden fields for miles and skipping stones on a glimmering, blue-green creek. Jay's bike has a distinctive squeak. The story jumps forward to late winter in the city, and narrator Joe's bike is chained to a rack at school, near Jay's, abandoned for months, ever since Jay was killed. On an impulse, Joe decides to ride Jay's bike. A new kid in school named Carlos warns him that this isn't such a good idea, but Joe is determined, despite his tears. Carlos steps in and skillfully manages to open the lock. After Joe’s accusation that Carlos is a thief and other missteps and false starts, eventually the two boys forge a friendship, Joe on his bike and Carlos on Jay’s—with “that squeak.” Beck's lovely story of loss and friendship has the scope of a novel; its focus is far more on Joe’s emotions than events, and readers never learn how Jay was killed. Thisdale's moody, painterly illustrations present Joe as a dreadlocked black boy and Carlos as a long-haired Latino; both appear to be young adolescents.
The length of the story and the age of the protagonists gear it toward older readers, who, if they can get past the picture-book format, will find much that resonates. (Picture book. 9-12)