I asked Michelle for a sneak peek at her new book. Here's our Q&A:
KW: Can you tell me about Pedal Power?
MM: I'll be including photos from around the world, from Dutch box bikes to Chinese circus bikes, to bikes that power water pumps in Guatemala or haul amazing loads in Vietnam. The text will explore why many affluent countries left pedal power behind after the invention of the combustible engine, and why those countries are now reconsidering bicycles as helpful tools. My goal in the book is not to deliver an overt environmentalist or health-conscious message, but rather to celebrate these small, efficientmachines that can make big changes in the world.
KW: What inspired you to write this book?
MM: Since my university years, the bicycle has been my main form of transportation. I love the freedom and adrenalin-high I get from riding and I've always thought it kind of funny when people feel sorry for me for not having a car. I'd much rather be pedaling, smiling at people in the streets, or singing at the top of my lungs as I fly down a hill. Whenever I travel, I notice that attitudes toward bicycles are very different in many places. In the Netherlands, I've seen bike paths beingbetter-used than highways. In Argentina, people use bicycles for everything from delivering bread to hauling recycling to powering a knife-sharpener. Bicycles cost less than cars do, and in some places they just make more sense for both transportation and power.
Thinking of all this, I started to wonder about our society's use of the combustible engine for things that could be done just as well or better with a simple machine like the bicycle. I also thought about my childhood bicycle and how much I would have enjoyed reading about bicycles being prized in other parts of the world. With this in mind, the proposal came together naturally. I sent it into Orca Book Publishers, who had published two of my novels for children, and they liked the idea. The book will be released in Spring 2013, and it'll kick off a new series for which I'll be writing two other books, too, one on sustainable energy and one on water.
KW: How did you research the book?
MM: I've always loved random bicycle facts. When I pitched the book to Orca Book Publishers, I drew on those remembered facts and hit the Internet to find out more. Not surprisingly, I came away with far more information than I could ever include in a book, so the challenge has been to narrow down exactly what I wanted to include. Meanwhile, I also read a lot of books - both for children and for adults -about bicycles. Some of my favourites have been Wheels of Change: how women rode the bicycle to freedom (with a few flat tires along the way), by Sue Macy, and Go Fly a Bike: the Ultimate Book About Bicycle Fun, Freedom & Science, by Bill Haduch. Those two are both for kids. The"grown-up" books I've most enjoyed are On Bicycles: 50 Ways the new Bike Culture Can Change Your Life, edited by Momentum's co-founder, Amy Walker, and The Human-Powered Home, by Tamara Dean.