The Patchwork Bike Activity

This is a promotional image of the book The Patchwork Bike. The book lays flat on painted cardboard with paintbrushes and wet paint next to it.


Here’s something fun to try with The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Thanh Rudd. Give the book to someone and tell them to check it out. Watch them as they read the pages. I am willing to bet the reader will touch the illustrations in anticipation of feeling the textured artwork. They’ll be surprised to realize the bumpy cardboard, the wet paint, and the gloopy mud is an optical illusion.

The Patchwork Bike gives readers a chance to explore a place that is much different from where they live. The narrator of the story, a girl with dark skin and cornrows, introduces us to her village. She is happy to show us her house made of mud. Readers see how she describes her “crazy” brothers and “fed-up” mom with affection. But what she is really excited to show readers is her bike. It’s different from the bikes most readers are familiar with. It’s made from branches and various objects.

The engaging text tells this joyful story with words that are fun to say aloud; words like “shicketty shake”, winketty wonk” and “bumpetty bump”. The letters are fun to look at, too. They appear to be hand-painted with a heavy, felt tip pen; almost like the writing learners see on anchor charts in the classroom.

The first pages of the book The Patchwork Bike are shown in this image.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Include/Think II.A.Learners contribute a balanced perspective when participating in a learning community by describing their understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community.

Picture books invite readers to build their schema about the global community. Readers draw on background information and clues from text and illustrations to shape a new understanding of their world. The Patchwork Bike provides readers with an opportunity to learn about life in a village of Africa.

In this exercise, learners will find clues from the text and illustrations to consider what the author and illustrator want them to know about the protagonist and where she lives.

Before showing readers a copy of The Patchwork Bike, tell learners that you have a fabulous book to read. Explain that both the author and the illustrator want readers to learn something about the narrator of the story. The words and illustrations work together to deliver a big message. Tell learners that you are going to read the book aloud twice. The first time you read the story, they will not see the illustrations. They will focus their attention on what the author wants them to know about the narrator of the story. The second time you read the story, they will look at the illustrations and think about what the artist wants them to know about the narrator. They will jot down what they notice and think about the big message.

Discussion Questions

Here are some questions for further discussion:

  • What did you learn about the narrator by just listening to the words?
  • What words help you imagine the bike?
  • How does the narrator feel about the family and the place where they live? How do you know this?
  • What words convey movement? How does the illustrator show movement?
  • What does the illustrator want us to know about how the girl feels about her life? Point to the pictures that support your ideas.

Click here to watch author Maxine Beneba Clarke read her book.

Learn more about this important book by reading Five Questions for 2019 Boston-Globe Horn Book Picture Book Award Winners Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van Thanh Ruddd.


Find a worksheet for The Patchwork Bike below.

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