“The Bike Ride:” A small book with a big lesson


“The Bike Ride” by Nelson Goose, illustrated by Kevin McGrath. Vineyard Stories, 2010. $21.95.

There are some conspicuously unique features about Vineyard Stories’ latest entry into children’s books. “The Bike Ride” is a tender read that nudges children toward an awareness of their environment and encourages positive action.

It is written by Nelson Goose (no relation to Mother), the nom de plume of an award-winning television producer (The PBS show, “Reading Rainbow”), a summer resident of Chappaquiddick who wants to deflect any attention from himself.

“It isn’t about Nelson Goose,” he says, “and I didn’t want credit. I just wanted to see if the kids would read the book and find their own ways to contribute. I like the concept of giving back,” he continues. “As golfers say, ‘Replace your own divots.'”

In addition, and more significantly, the author, at his own out-of-pocket expense, has included a mail-in Plant-a-Tree coupon in each book that will provide the sender with a free, ready-to-plant tree seedling. Once the seedling has been sent, it will be tracked on the nelsongoose.com website. Readers can learn how many have been distributed and to what states according to zip codes, and learn such facts as how many gallons of oxygen have been produced by the new trees — “so they can feel proud of the process,” the author explains.

Rather remarkable, but the exercise underscores the message of “The Bike Ride,” a simple tale based on the conviction that when responded to with consideration, even in things you love as they are, changes can produce positive results.

With Island summer resident Kevin McGrath’s inviting illustrations of happy outdoor scenes — detailed with various anthropomorphic critters (costumed geese and mice, bike-riding crabs, kite-flying squirrels) — the book tells the story of young Dave and his dad who take summer bike rides through the woods to the beach. Dave sits behind his dad and greets the woodland animals by name as dad pedals along. Their favorite spot is at the end of the bike path where they can hear the ocean and see the lighthouse. But things change when Dave discovers a yellow bulldozer clearing away Billy the Blue Jay’s trees.

Here’s where Mr. Goose exercises a deft touch. He tells the story gently and without judgment. There is no right or wrong; no good guys or bad guys. There is just life as it is.

When the family returns the following spring, there’s a completely different view from the back seat of dad’s bicycle. But first impressions don’t always tell the entire story, and the author offers a very constructive and reasonable option.

“The story is based on my son and me,” Mr. Goose admits. “I used to take him riding on the back of my bike every day until he was old enough to learn to ride, and we would have long conversations as we rode. I can still remember the feel of his helmet leaning on my back when he’d fall asleep against me. I remember it so fondly.”

Vineyard Stories, founded in 2005 by Ms. Pogue and her late husband, John Walter, has steadily been producing quality Island-based books, such as its recent “Schooner: Building a Wooden Boat on Martha’s Vineyard,” and last year’s “Morning Glory Farm, and the Family That Feeds an Island.” Although a different genre, “The Bike Ride” demonstrates the same commitment to quality and substance.

Readers are encouraged to view Nelson Goose’s website, for updated facts about the environment as well as a chance to purchase the book and contribute a comment. “The Bike Ride” can also be purchased at various Island stores.

To view more of Kevin McGrath’s illustrations go to mvzoo.com.