Elspeth Lorraine

Book Reviews

February 10, 2023

"Bessie the Motorcycle Queen" by Charles R. Smith Jr. Illustrated by Charlot Kristensen

Continuing the celebration of Black History Month, this week it's all about Bessie Stringfield, the coolest motorcycle queen you probably haven’t heard of… yet! This cover had me vrooming over to check it out. Bessie has a huge grin as she poses on her motorcycle with these cool purple sunglasses. I’d never heard of Bessie, but I knew she was going to be my type of gal based on her fashion sense alone. Charles is a Coretta Scott award winning author and he wrote this story in a cool sing songy way that is begging to be read aloud. Bessie is a spiffy motorcycle enthusiast who rides around America using a penny toss and a map to see where she goes next. She wins competitions, does stunts and even sleeps on the road when she can’t get a place to stay. When she heads South from Boston she encounters racism and often isn’t allowed to collect the prizes she won, but “Bessie didn’t care, she knew she won, Bessie VROOM-VROOMED west, following the sun”.  

Bits and Pieces: Charlot used this palette of colors that is quite unique and gave you this “old tyme” road trip feel. The burnt orange and sunset pink and purples were perfectly unexpected.

Not Sure About: Gosh I wish we knew more about her. The author has back matter on how little historical facts there are about her which is a shame. I suppose we can be grateful we have enough information about her to get a book though! 

Favorite Part: Bessie changed details of her life story each time she shared it with someone. This adds to the confusion and lack of details surrounding her life. I love that energy. There’s something about telling your story your own way that makes me happy. Too often people tell long boring stories about themselves and aloud you’re saying, “one brother and one sister! Wow! SO interesting.” But you’re thinking, “Why doesn’t this person tell me something awesome like about them winning every motorcycle race they enter?”

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