Future black female motorcyclist Bessie Stringfield triumphs over boys who say she can’t join their daily bike races in this fictional imagining of her childhood.
“Have you ever been told you are not enough?” Bessie was. Boys, black and white, are shown telling this darker-skinned girl with very large afro puffs that she isn’t “pretty enough” or “tough enough.” After school, they race past her, laughing when she says she wants to join them. Downcast, Bessie asks Mama if “girls can ride [bikes] fast,” to which Mama replies, “the only one who knows for sure is the Man Upstairs.” At bedtime, she asks in prayer, with one eye open, and then falls asleep. In her dream, she rides like magic through vast landscapes and cityscapes, so fast “she even raced up into the night sky.” She wakes up ready, and that afternoon, when the boys say “Go!” she zooms past them, astonishing everyone. Dark brown, gold, and neutral tones dominate the captivating scenes, which segue skillfully into paragraphs of backmatter information in smaller font about Stringfield’s impressive exploits. She traveled widely on her motorcycle(s) in the mid-20th century, using the Negro Motorist Green Book to stay safe when riding across America. Discrepancies between different versions of her life story are explained as an example of how legends grow.
A playful introduction to Bessie’s exciting, triumphant, and unforgettable story. (Picture book. 5-9)