Bessie the Motorcycle Queen (Hardcover)

Bessie the Motorcycle Queen By Charles R. Smith Jr., Charlot Kristensen (Illustrator) Cover Image

Bessie the Motorcycle Queen (Hardcover)


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Hop on the bike with Bessie Stringfield, the motorcycle queen of Miami, in this powerful picture book from Coretta Scott King medalist Charles R. Smith, Jr. and debut picture book illustrator Charlot Kristensen.

The folks they lined up to meet the Motorcycle Queen, seated sidesaddle on her motorbike machine.

In 1929, 18-year-old Bessie Stringfield hopped on her motorcycle and headed out on an adventure, an unusual choice for a young Black woman at the time. Paying her way by winning motorcycle races, she criss-crossed the country through small towns, big cities, and wide open spaces.

But not everyone was happy to see Bessie's brown face peeking out from underneath her helmet. And more than once, Bessie found herself making some quick exits on the back of her bike to escape Jim Crow. A trailblazer in the world of women's racing and motorcycling, Bessie Stringfield was a figure who will inspire all children to pursue their dreams.

From the first line, award-winning author Charles R. Smith Jr.’s poetry evokes emotion, excitement, fear, and wonder in equal measures. Charlot Kristensen portrays Bessie and the American landscape with vivid imagery that is sure to capture the attention of young readers.

A much-needed story about a Black woman who paved the way for future generations, for fans of The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson and My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña.

Charlot Kristensen is a Dublin based illustrator, designer, and book author. As a Black artist she often depicts underrepresented characters in empowering ways to help change their narratives. Some of her most renowned clients include HuffPost, Google, Scholastic, Penguin Random House, and the New York Times. You can find her at
Charles R. Smith Jr. is an award-winning author, photographer, and poet with over thirty books to his credit. His awards include a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration (2010) for his photographs accompanying the Langston Hughes poem, My People, and a Coretta Scott King Honor Author Award (2008) for his biography on Muhammad Ali, Twelve Rounds to Glory. Many of his books have also garnered reluctant reader awards, proving that kids that don't like to read do like to read his books. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and currently lives in Poughkeepsie, New York. You can find him at
Product Details ISBN: 9781338752472
ISBN-10: 1338752472
Publisher: Orchard Books
Publication Date: September 20th, 2022
Pages: 40
Language: English

Praise for Bessie the Motorcycle Queen:

2023 NCSS Septima P. Clark Book Award – Winner: Elementary Category

Imagination Soup Best Children's Nonfiction Books of 2022

"A Black woman whose early 20th-century adventures seem right out of a tall tale...zooms across the pages of this appealing picture book biography. . . .The illustrations and text are full of energy and make for a highly engaging class read."--School Library Journal (starred review)

"The illustrations. . .incorporate color in exciting ways while providing Bessie a classic vibe for her adventures. Unexpected pops of purple, pink, and teal create a strong visual interest that will help draw readers into Bessie's story. A great tale about one bad biker." -- Kirkus

"A fast-flying starter biography, this tale of motorcycle queen Bessie Stringfield is ideal for fans of cars, travel, racing, and Black history. . . .Add this book to biography collections and look for ways to put it in the hands of readers interested in motorcycles as well as those seeking to learn about the Jim Crow era through a new lens." --Booklist

"Smith compiles the uncertain details of Stringfield's life story into a digestible tale of a Black woman who lived on her own terms. Kristensen's lively unlined illustrations emphasize bright landscapes."--Publishers Weekly

"This book is sure to inspire young readers. ...Engaging." --Common Sense Media