In the background of several illustrations in Together We Ride, Valerie Bolling and Kaylani Juanita's ebullient, family-centered picture book, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is a quiet, stately presence. More than a contextualizing detail, the bridge hints at the horizons soon to be broadening for the book's young protagonist, who is learning a skill that will take her places.
Bolling (Let's Dance!) uses the sparest rhyming text to narrate a Black father's efforts to teach his daughter how to ride a bike, the cul-de-sac outside their house her testing ground. "Slow... guide" finds the dad holding the girl's shoulders and walking as she pedals; "Quick stride" finds him jogging behind her as she takes off without him. "Slip,/ slide,/ tossed aside" shows her wobbling and then wiping out; "Hug-cried" shows him consoling her. Will she give up or forge ahead? "Tears dried/ Decide...."
Juanita (Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle) uses clean lines and an inviting pastel palette to capture all sorts of enticingly microscopic details--the fruit decals on the girl's helmet, the family portrait on the refrigerator--and not a page lacks an animal cameo: a sidewalk-chalk bird, neighborhood critters taking note of the girl's progress and so on. With its concluding spread, Together We Ride suggests that there's a thrill even larger than mastering the bicycle: a family bike ride, complete with mom, little brother and dog ("Side by side/ RIDE!"). In this illustration, the Golden Gate Bridge is now prominent and what appears to be an easy glide away. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author