The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero (2019) is a beautiful picture book that pays tribute to Tour de France champion Gino Bartali and his tireless efforts to save Jewish families from Nazi persecution during World War II.
Written by Amalia Hoffman and illustrated by Chiara Fedele, the book takes us from Bartali's humble origins in Italy to his grueling determination to become a cycling champion, culminating with his most daring challenge yet —delivering documents to help Jewish families in Italy escape the Nazis.
Published by Capstone Press, The Brave Cyclist is a story of courage, dedication, and selfless sacrifice that inspires young people to work hard and help their fellow human beings in need.
The book's author, Israeli American author Amalia Hoffman has written and illustrated a number of award-winning picture books. You can read more about Amalia and her work in our recent blog post.
In this special Q&A about The Brave Cyclist, Amalia shares with us the inspiration behind her touching book and the message she wants to give young people.
1. Tell me about your journey of writing this book.
As a daughter of parents who lost their entire families in Poland during the Holocaust, I made it a habit to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem whenever I travel to Israel.
In 2016, while walking around the area of the museum that's dedicated to righteous people who saved Jews during the Holocaust, I noticed a new name inscribed on the wall of Italian rescuers: Gino Bartali.
I was curious to find out more about this individual and that led me into a fascinating journey into his life. I read many books and articles and began writing my story, The Brave Cyclist: A True Story of a Holocaust Hero. I went through tons of revisions until it was finally published by Capstone Editions in 2019.
2. What inspired you the most about Gino Bartali and his life?
I was inspired by Gino’s determination. As a poor and sickly young boy, he worked during his summer vacation to earn enough money to buy a used bike. In spite of his parents’ worries, he trained every day and eventually joined a professional cycling team.
Gino was determined to be a champion and eventually, in 1938, won the toughest biking competition, The Tour de France. During the Holocaust, he was determined to rescue Italian Jews despite the danger and threat of losing his life and career. He was extremely modest and never spoke about his rescue efforts after the war was over.
3. What do you wish to tell young readers with this story?
As Gino said: “If you’re good at a sport, they attach the medals to your shirts and then they shine in some museum. That which is earned by doing good deeds is attached to the soul and shines elsewhere.”
Young readers might not be champions but by doing good deeds and making the world a better place their souls shine like gold medals.
4. What kind of feedback have you received from young readers so far?
The feedback has been incredible. The book was selected as Junior Library Gold Selection Book and Bank Street College Selection Book. I presented the book to young people in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community centers in person or via Zoom all over the country and it made its way to book fairs in the US and abroad.
Whenever I do presentations, children are amazed by Gino’s courage. They also talk about making the world a better place by being kind and reaching out to families of other religions and cultures.
Left: Amalia Hoffman standing in front of the plaque on which Gino Bartali's name is inscribed at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Right: The Righteous Among the Nations certificate of honour Gino Bartali's family received from Israel in 2013.