Shirley Hughes is one of the best-loved writers for children and at the grand age of 84, Shirley has just published her first novel. Hero on a Bicycle is suitable for confident readers aged around 10 and over, but adults can also enjoy this well-told story.
Set in Florence, Italy, during the Second World War, this story is inspired by the authors own experiences and on people she met in Italy, just after the war.
Thirteen-year-old Paolo lives in Florence with his English mother, older sister and his beloved dog, Guido. The Germans have invaded and Paolo's father is in hiding and secretly suspected of helping the Partisans, who are roaming the hills around Florence.
Paolo loves going for secret midnight bike rides. He knows this is dangerous because nightly curfews are in place and anyone caught breaking the rules would suffer at the hands of the German occupying force.
One night on his way home, Paolo is stopped by a group of Partisans. They ask him to take an important message to his mother, a message that leads them all in to a very dangerous adventure.
I won't spoil the plot by revealing anymore, but be prepared for a tense, dangerous, exciting and thrilling story, that does not shy away from the brutality and fear suffered in wartime. The plot and characters are very realistic and there is one scene that I found particularly emotional and moving.
This is NOT a comparison, but I enjoyed this book in a similar way that I enjoy Michael Morpurgo's wartime stories. I think this type of story can be enjoyed by young and old alike, and a realistic story is a good way to learn about a place and time in history.
For more historical details and information all about this book, there is also a great website to browse. Just google the book title.