Teach your children well
by Paul Jamiol
Dog Ear Publishing, $14.95, 37 pages
The subtitle of Paul Jamiol’s book is, “A Children’s Book on Motorcycling.” But it’s a lot more than that. A book intended to teach, expose, or demonstrate simple motorcycling to kids wouldn’t have the quantity and depth of between-the-lines commentary about the entire lifestyle as BIKERS are ANIMALS does. Author Jamiol obviously wants to instill some serious cultural love and respect here; to impart wisdom well beyond things like what a motorcycle is and how it operates.
To begin with, the title is arranged on the cover to look like a three-piece patch. That got my attention immediately—as did the irony of the title itself. Jamiol has stated that he “hopes to shake, early on, the adult refrain that ‘bikers are animals.’”
In the pages of his book, the bikers are indeed animals—real ones. Through Jamiol’s words and cool full-page color illustrations, we are introduced to the members of the Bears Motorcycle Club and their friends: guys like Thor and Trash, and gals like the cute puma Prowla, and the innocently seductive wolf-babe Howlena.
Each animal biker has a personality and warm human qualities, and they’re a whole bunch more interesting than anything you’ll see on the Satur;day morning cartoons or the Little Golden Books rack at Toys ‘R’ Us.
Their scoots also run the gamut of types—and it’s here where some of that motorcycling education comes in. There are choppers, dressers, customs, jockey shifters, Boss Hosses—a sportbike, even—and more; and the differences and rider preferences are pointed out in a light, fun and educational way.
Even though he’s on a sportbike, my favorite biker-animal in the book is a squirrel named “Akorn.” In an aviatior-style leather helmet and goggles, Akorn has an especially wild, fun-to-fly look in his eyes and a pretty obvious penchant for the edgier parts of life and riding. For some reason I really related to this wiry little dude.
Zig and Zag are pretty cool, too—you gotta love twin gorillas on twin “Mad Banana Yellow” cruisers.
And yes, this is the 21st century. And yes, any kind of media presentation to kids has to have its share of obligatory political correctness. But BIKERS are ANIMALS is nowhere near as heavy-handed as a lot of the sociopolitical propaganda machines that disguise themselves as children’s entertainment. No. Sprinkled lightly and tastefully throughout the book and in a final comment from the “BIKERS are ANIMALS Safety Team” are comments about helmets (although none of the animals wear a DOT lid), rider safety courses, female riders, protective clothing, being a good passenger and other worthwhile chunks of wisdom.
The last pages of the book feature some of the illustrations as full-page coloring book drawings, allowing kids to tap into their inner Jesse James and really kick their customizing imaginations into gear.
BIKERS are ANIMALS: A Children’s Book on Motorcycling is a work that is long overdue. In his description of a biker-eagle named “Talon,” author Jamiol notes that, “Talon loves to be free. Free to ride his motorcycle down the open road and see the world around him.” In a society with politics and media that seem bent on promoting ever-increasing restrictions and fear, teaching kids about a love for freedom and inspiring a desire to live life to its fullest seems like a pretty damn good idea to me.