A bike’s design is to get you from A to B, concedes Mulder, but it can also mix a smoothie, spin a centrifuge, grind grain and even change the world.
Mulder’s evolutionary survey of the bicycle is, like the subject in question, a piece of many parts: a cultural history, a course in mechanics, a soupçon of physics, a spotlight on economic class and a springboard for innovation. In a bouncy, friendly tone, she proceeds roughly chronologically but has no hesitation to follow a thread or a whim, often in colorful boxed asides. The main narrative—an easygoing, fundamental examination of the bike’s impact on America’s history and the world today (without running too deep)—is shot through with archival and modern photographs. Some are just priceless, like the father and son riding penny-farthing bikes fit to their size. They range from stiletto-sharp photos of bread couriers balancing huge trays of loaves on their heads to a salesman whose bike is festooned with plastic bags full of water and goldfish. Mulder twines the mechanics of bicycles with cultural phenomenon, the environmental benefits of cycling and even the change in women’s fashions. It publishes simultaneously with Nikki Tate’s Down to Earth: How Kids Help Feed the World as part of the Orca Footprints series.
A smart, tangy history of our two-wheeled friend. (Nonfiction. 8-14)