Amalia Hoffman is an award-winning author and illustrator. I have long been a fan of her books and I’m excited to share her latest, THE BRAVE CYCLIST (Capstone Editions) beautifully illustrated by Chiara Fedele. Gino Bartali was a champion cyclist when WWII changed the lives of so many. Bartali risked his own safety to deliver documents that would help Jewish people escape the terrors of the war. Amalia honors Bartali by sharing his story with young readers.
What sparked your interest in Gino Bartali, the cyclist who risked his life during WWII?
Each time I go to Israel, I visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem where I spiritually connect with my parent’s families who perished during the holocaust.
During one of my visits, I walked through the promenade of the Righteous Among the Nations, which honors non-Jewish individuals who saved Jews during the holocaust. I noticed that a new name was added—Gino Bartali.
At that time I didn’t know anything about him except that he was Italian. So began my journey, which led me to writing The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero.
I have always been intrigued by people of tremendous courage who proved that one individual could indeed save the world and make it a better place.
I googled Gino Bartali’s name and was amazed by what I have found. The more I read, the more intrigued I was.
Can you tell me a bit about your research project for this book?
I started out by reading articles.
In an article entitled, Long Overdue honor for Righteous Christian Italian Cycling Great Bartali (Sinai Alon, The Jerusalem Post, 10/8/2013) I found out that Gino Bartali was recognized by Yad Vashem in 2013 and that he was included in the list of righteous rescuers.
Another article, Gino Bartali: the Cyclist Who Saved Jews in Wartime Italy (Crutchely Peter, Belfast: BBC, 5/9/2014) ignited my passion for this courageous and generous person.
A documentary film, My Italian Secret (Jacoby Oren, PBS Distribution, 2015) inspired me to research further.
Many articles were in Italian but luckily, I am fluent in Hebrew so I researched the Israeli internet and found more publications.
I went on to reading numerous books and publications about WWII, Italy during the Mussolini dictatorship years and also about bicycling and the Tour de France.
What is an Interesting fact you discovered that isn’t included in the book?
After I wrote the book I discovered that a new cycling school in memory of Gino Bartali was established in the youth village of Ben Shemen in Israel. This really got me excited so in June of this year, I visited the school. It’s an amazing place with a mission of diversity and accepting young riders from every race and religion.
The director, Ran Margaliot is also a professional cyclist.
I also discovered that Gino Bartali’s grand daughter, Gioia Bartali devotes much of her time to preserving the legend of her grand father through many programs, cycling events and social media.
What were your thought when you first saw the illustrations by Chiara Fedele?
When I first saw Chiara’s illustrations I was smitten by her colors and style. I thought that she was the perfect choice to illustrate this book.
Chiara is Italian and she managed to capture the scenery in the book. In one spread she depicted Gino as a young boy, standing on top of a hill and seeing Florence with it’s cathedrals, palazzos and the grand synagogue. In another scene, she depicted Florence at the time of the liberation from Mussolini’s the regime with the Bargello, the People Palace in the background. In the same spread, she added a couple embracing by the door way. This detail wasn’t mentioned in my story. It was something Chiara added to the illustration to make it more emotional.
While she did a lot of research, she managed to keep the illustrations fresh, artistic and highly expressive. The reader can really feel Gino’s fear, anxiety and doubts in his facial expressions on every illustrated page.
As the author of many books – how is your writing process different with fiction and nonfiction?
In writing fiction, I usually start out with a concept or an idea, sometimes- a picture or an image. With nonfiction I usually start out with research and fact checking. Then, I move on to the more creative stage of figuring out what would be the “story within the story” and how to put everything together in a compelling way so the book doesn’t read like a magazine article.
Thank you, Amalia!
Here’s a Youtube link to a lovely book trailer about THE BRAVE CYCLIST:
To learn more about Amalia’s books visit her website: http://www.amaliahoffman.com/