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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mick Harte was Here Bike Safety Book by Barbara Park Should Be Required Reading for 3rd through 8th Grades

Book Review by Rick Price, Ph.D.

Award winning children’s author Barbara Park wrote a book in the mid-1990s that should be required reading for upper level elementary and Middle School kids.  Mick Harte was Here is an excellent component in a bicycle safety curriculum for kids from 3rd through 8th grade. 

Rated by the publisher at grade level 4.8 this 88 page chapter book delivers a solid lesson on bicycle safety and the importance of using a bicycle helmet directly to the audience that needs it most:  3rd grade through middle school.

The book is narrated by Phoebe Harte, the 8th grade sister of Mick who was killed in a bike crash when he was twelve years and five months old.  After her brother’s death Phoebe is faced with a roller coaster of emotions, as you might expect.  So is the entire family, of course. 

Park does a wonderful job of describing how the family deals with death, a funeral, grieving, and the resulting change in perspective for the entire family.  One passage resonates with me especially.  My mother, who was a high school English teacher, made it clear to her students and her family that when she died she wanted us all to confront her death head on.  “I don’t want any talk of my ‘passing way,’ she would explain.  “When I die, I’m dead!”  Park has her narrator explode at the school counselor who tries to console her for her “loss.”  Says Phoebe, “I didn’t just misplace him or leave him behind on a bus somewhere.  He died, okay?  Mick died.  But he will never – ever – be lost.”

I have had third graders and third grade teachers tell me that this is a great book to use in conjunction with guest speakers on the importance using bike helmets.  Indeed, this is a book that has breadth and depth for older elementary and middle school kids.  It can be used in conjunction with all types of Safe Routes to School programs, helmet programs, and bike safety curricula in general.

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