This is one of my favorite books, for a hundred different reasons, but for the sake of this post, it’s because of bikes. The book is not about bikes, but the main characters sometimes use bikes to get around their summer stomping grounds.
This One Summer is about two girls, friends, who are at different stages of maturity.
Bikes are also a mode of transportation that changes as we age. The joy of that first ride without training wheels is an anchor memory to our childhood. Windy is still tied to that childhood. But Rose, the older of the two, rides her bike into the more “grown-up” situations in the book, including one that changes her view of herself and her life.
I still bike everywhere (I have never owned a car) and bikes do represent everything from freedom and a child-like joy to real danger. So, the bike represents that diverging of paths. I might be making a stretch here, but it’s one more sign of the richness of this book that every time I go back to it, I see something new.
Also, as an illustrator, I am in awe of Jillian’s ability to draw perfect bikes. Bikes and horses are Achilles’ heels for many illustrators (including me).