Cover image for Bicycle madness
Bicycle madness
Kurtz, Jane.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt, 2003.
Physical Description:
122 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
In the late nineteenth century, Lillie gains friendship and help with a spelling bee from a neighbor, Frances Willard, who braves criticism to speak about women's rights and learn to ride a bicycle. Includes historical notes.
Reading Level:
810 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.8 3.0 73515.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.2 6 Quiz: 36405 Guided reading level: S.
Added Author:
Electronic Access:
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X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A compelling story about the importance of standing up for what is right

"I was almost home when I saw our new next-door neighbor, Miss Frances Willard, standing in front of her house. Oddly enough, she was holding on to a safety-bicycle!"

Lillie is having a difficult year. She's still struggling with her mother's recent death, and now her father has moved the family to the other side of town. But when Frances Willard-Lillie's new neighbor-decides to learn how to ride a bicycle, Lillie finds promising change all around her.

Even though her father disapproves of their progressive neighbor, Lillie and Miss Frances soon become friends. Miss Frances is involved in more than taming a wild bike, however; she is part of Susan B. Anthony's circle, fighting for the right for women to vote, as well as child-labor laws and better conditions for workers. Together, Lillie and Miss Frances take on their beasts-a bike and a daunting spelling bee-and find the will to dust themselves off, get back up, and ride for all they're worth.

Set in the late 1800s, this engaging novel skillfully blends fine storytelling with women's history.

Author Notes

Jane Kurtz is the author of I'm Sorry, Almira Ann and many other books for children-picture books through young-adult fiction. She lives in Kansas.

Beth Peck has illustrated A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, as well as other acclaimed books for young readers. She lives in Menomonie, Wisconsin, with her family.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-7. Through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl, Kurtz presents a lively story of the feminist Frances Willard, who defied convention in her fight for women's rights and fair labor laws in the late nineteenth century--and who also dared to ride a bicycle. Young Lillie's mother is dead, and her dad forbids her to have anything to do with the dangerous Willard woman next door. But watching Willard struggle with the bicycle despite her long skirt and hearing Willard's fiery talk give Lillie the strength to defy her dad and change them both. In a long, interesting historical note, Kurtz says that the facts about Willard are true, and she quotes extensively from Willard's public speeches. Of course, the messages are loud and clear (courage is as contagious as cowardice ), but Lillie's viewpoint brings home what it was like to grow up female in days gone by, especially if one didn't fit into the ladylike mold. Stories about unconventional mentors have wide appeal, and Peck's occasional full-page charcoal drawings convey an immediate sense of the bond between the young woman and the unglamorized Miss Frances, who dares to ride free. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-6-When Lillie Applewood, still grieving for her dead mother, moves across town with her father and brother, she misses her friend Minerva and is insecure at school, particularly at the prospect of competing in the upcoming spelling bee. However, she is captivated by her new neighbor, labor and women's rights activist Frances Willard, who is determined to master the "safety," the popular new bicycle that is all the rage in the late 1800s. Reluctantly, Lillie's father allows her to spend time with scandalous Miss Frances, who shares her own experiences of growing up in defiance of Victorian attitudes about girls, raises Lillie's consciousness about social injustice, and helps her prepare for the spelling bee. In turn, Lillie reinforces Frances's determination to conquer the bicycle. Told in Lillie's distinctive voice, the novel is sprinkled liberally with details of life at the turn of the 19th century, and chapters begin with quotes from writings of the time, including Willard's own words. Black-and-white, full-page illustrations and small line drawings enhance the period flavor of the text. An author's note provides background on Frances Willard as well as on the suffrage and temperance movements and the bicycle. A flavorful slice of historical fiction.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.