Bessie the Motorcycle Queen

Charlot Kristensen

Orchard Books, 2022

Agent: Thao Le

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.


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