Book Review: Mike on a Bike in a Forest
During Michael Hickey’s two decades of Bozeman living, he’s experienced a lot of outdoor adventures. Now he is capturing his love of exploration in a series of children’s books.
Hickey’s first effort, titled “Mike on a Bike in a Forest” tells a tale of a young boy as he experiences nature on his first forest bike ride alongside his parents.
“You look at life a little differently when you’re on a bike,” says Hickey. “My hope is that this story will encourage children and parents to discover the world on two wheels.” Geared toward kids aged 3 to 8, Hickey sees this book as something you can read to them when they are young and something they can learn to read themselves later. He also hopes his writing will inspire young outdoor enthusiasts.
There are four books in the “Mike on a Bike” series that describe the little adventures this boy finds himself on as he explores the natural world around him while spinning around the forest, ocean, river, and mountains. The next series of books will focus on skiing and fly-fishing adventures. Hickey is writing the fly-fishing stories with his daughter as a reflecting on how she learned how to fish, while the skiing stories are taken from his life in the industry here in the Rockies and in New England.
As I read the first book, the setting reminds me of a favorite local hiking trail and sure enough, it is. Hickey tells me that all of his stories are based on actual rides he has taken as an adult and written through the eyes of a child. “That’s hard to do,” he tells me. “You have to think back to when you were a kid and all the different things you were doing. I had to ask myself ‘How did you see the world? How much fun did you have playing outside?’”
The process through which Hickey wrote the first book included reliving a very specific ride and thinking about what a child would see, smell and hear. He asked himself what would make a child want to explore further. The recollection process takes the most time in writing a book like this. Since it is only fifteen pages long, the actual writing only required an afternoon of work. The illustrations from Constance Bond Evans perfectly match Hickey’s words. The book is self-published through Infinity Publishing. Since no local bookstores are carrying the book yet, your best bet to purchase the $10 story is online at buybooksontheweb.com.
But the fact that local stores haven’t yet bought into the book hasn’t stopped Hickey from using local outlets for marketing. “A lot of people want to help me out, to see this book be a success,” he says. He’s relying on local businesses and professional offices to showcase the book to direct online orders. He is also using the growing social media world to help market his creation. Through a very active LinkedIn group, Hickey is already selling copies to his buddies in the ski industry on the east coast.
“It’s exciting for me to see the reaction to something like this,” Hickey says with a glimmer in his eye. “It tells me there is value here. The challenge is getting the word out but it’s something I’m willing to do.”
Hickey’s inspiration for this and upcoming stories comes directly from our Bozeman community. “We live in such an outdoorsy place,” he says. “Nearly everyone I know has their favorite outdoor activity, but some people and their children don’t get out and experience this world that they live in. So I thought ‘How would I inspire someone to experience our great outdoors?’ and the book concept came about. I hope that these books will encourage children to get outside and hopefully with their parents.”
With all but one of the books including parents in the storyline, that seems like a reasonable outcome. I asked a few of my friends who have children in the target audience to read the book and share with me their thoughts. The responses included the very sentiment that is Hickey’s goal: “This will make Joe want to ride a bike. And he’ll want me to go with him.”
After reading of the world that Mike explored around him – the sight and sound of a trout jumping, the smell of fresh rain-damped leaves, the feel of crisp, snow fed streams – I’m reminded of my own first adventures in nature and how much those experiences have shaped who I am today. I credit my parents for instilling in me a great appreciation for the outdoors at a young age, as it is one that has extended well into my adult life. I can easily see how this book could inspire children and parents to discover the natural world outside their door…side by side.
Chantel Schieffer is a Bozeman resident who enjoys the many outdoor opportunities our community offers.