The Bicycle Spy

The Bicycle Spy
Age Range
Release Date
September 27, 2016
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Marcel loves riding his bicycle, whether he's racing through the streets of his small town in France or making bread deliveries for his parents' bakery. He dreams of someday competing in the Tour de France, the greatest bicycle race. But ever since Germany's occupation of France began two years ago, in 1940, the race has been canceled. Now there are soldiers everywhere, interrupting Marcel's rides with checkpoints and questioning.

Then Marcel learns two big secrets, and he realizes there are worse things about the war than a canceled race. When he later discovers that his friend's entire family is in imminent danger, Marcel knows he can help -- but it will involve taking a risky bicycle ride to pass along covert information. And when nothing ends up going according to plan, it's up to him to keep pedaling and think quickly... because his friend, her family, and his own future hang in the balance.

Editor review

1 review
French Resistance to the Nazis
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Marcel's parents run a bakery, so it's not unusual for them to ask him to deliver bread. He loves to ride his bike, and is a big fan of the Tour de France, so he often imagines that he is riding in it while on his errands. Because it is 1942 and the Nazis have invaded France, there has been no race, and there are lots of shortages and rationing. His mother is able to bake pan d'epice (gingerbread) for him to give to German guards when he is out delivering, and he soon finds out why-- his parents are members of the Resistance, and he is delivering messages for them! At school, he makes a friend in new student Delphine, who is also a fan of the Tour de France, and the two spend a lot of time together, playing cards, studying, and riding bikes. When Delphine confides in Marcel that she is Jewish and her family has been trying to escape the Nazis, he takes her very seriously. Eventually, a mean classmate finds out, and her family is on the run again. Marcel's parents have connections that could help the family get to Spain, and Marcel's skills as a bicycle spy might be the only thing standing between his friend and her family's demise.
Good Points
This was a well-constructed and engaging middle grade novel about a topic which still fascinates readers. Marcel's involvement was realistically portrayed, and exciting to read. Tying in his interest to professional bike racing was inspired. Good length, attractive cover, and a great friendship between Marcel and Delphine make this a historical fiction title that will be easy to get children to read.

Bicycles were hugely important mode of transportation during World War II, and modern readers might not fully understand how much freedom children were given to ride them. Adding information about the Tour de France was brilliant. I loved this on a personal level, because I may have occasionally pretended to be in the French Resistance while riding my bike to school in the rain. This is a great novel for children to put themselves into given the age of the characters and their adventures.

There is still a huge amount of interest in World War II, and it's great when there are books that touch on facets of the war that haven't been covered quite as much. Hand this to readers of Meyer's Black Radishes who want to know more about France, or those who were fascinated by what the young people in Hoose's The Boys Who Challenged Hitler were able to accomplish.
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