The Boy Who Biked The World, Alastair Humpherys (2011)

Travelogue for ten year olds – the enjoyable story how dreams of adventure turn into reality, one pedal stroke at a time

Eye Books, 9781903070758 paperback 128pp £5.99

Tom is probably in his final year of primary school. Encouraged by surprisingly accommodating parents, he sets off to encircle the world on his bicycle – covering in this volume, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Written for youngsters of around the age of the book’s hero, Humphereys has picked from his own epic cycling experiences to create an enjoyable children’s story. Much is left unexplained. How exactly does he get the time off school? From where does the money come? And what on earth are his parents thinking of?

However, the message running through the book is that it is possible to overcome your fears, and get up and go off on your bike and see the world. Tom encounters plenty of postcard scenes – Petra, the pyramids, the Danube and the Nile. And he has some fantastic human encounters – with border guards, and most memorably, with a village of Maasais.

A narrative account of the journey is interspersed with pages from Tom’s journal. Through these, there is plenty to learn and stimulate the imagination – even for those in jaded middle age. His desert survival tips are as good as any that I have read, and his determination to learn a few words of the languages whose speakers he encounters is admirable.

This volume sees Tom getting as far as the tip of Africa. The next instalment will cover his travels in the Americas. These might not quiet be children’s classics, but they are enjoyable to read, whatever your age and remain page-turning to the end – a trick missed by much travelogue. The Boy Who Biked The World deserves a place in the stocking of every cyclist who hopes to pass their passion onto their children.

PS Dec 11

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