The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street

The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street

4.5 2
by Sharon Flake, Colin Bootman

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"Queen is smart. Queen is pretty. But nobody likes her except her kitty."

Queen's house-the biggest one on 33rd Street—looks just like a castle, and in her bedroom, she has dozens of beautiful dresses and crowns. Queen thinks she's a real queen, and she treats everyone, even her teacher, like her royal subject.

When a new kid comes to Queen's school


"Queen is smart. Queen is pretty. But nobody likes her except her kitty."

Queen's house-the biggest one on 33rd Street—looks just like a castle, and in her bedroom, she has dozens of beautiful dresses and crowns. Queen thinks she's a real queen, and she treats everyone, even her teacher, like her royal subject.

When a new kid comes to Queen's school, riding a broken bike and wearing smelly, worn-out clothes, Queen joins her classmates in making fun of him. Her parents insist she be nice to Leroy, but Queen doesn't see why she should. Leroy doesn't just stink; Queen thinks he tells lies-whoppers in fact. And when he says he's an African prince from Senegal, Queen makes it her mission to prove Leroy is an impostor.

But as she gets closer to discovering Leroy's real story, Queen learns the unexpected from her broken bike boy: what being a good friend and "happily ever after" really mean.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Abright and brassy fifth grader named Queen narrates Flake's (The Skin I'm In) resonant novel about the importance of friendship, imagination and being true to oneself. Though her father gave her a regal name so that others will respect her, the outspoken girl's superior attitude often alienates her peers, who, she admits, think she is "a royal pain in the neck." Leroy, a new boy at school who rides a rusted bike without a seat, announces that he is a prince from Senegal. For show-and-tell, the lad, who lives with his mother in a housing project, brings in elephant tusks and gold coins that he says belonged to his great-grandfather. Feeling particularly alone after her only friend moves away, skeptical Queen decides to expose Leroy as a fibber so that her classmates will "stop liking him and like me." Queen's quest to learn the truth about Leroy's life brings her in contact with Cornelius, a wise, elderly former stage actor who sometimes speaks in intriguing riddles and who eventually reveals the secret behind the boy's stories. Guided by the actions and astute advice of Leroy, Cornelius and her parents, Queen gradually comes to acknowledge and reveal her true self-one who doesn't need to belittle others. Multi-dimensional characters and frequently affecting dialogue make this a memorable work of fiction. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
When fifth-grader Queen Marie Rousseau's parents named her, they probably didn't expect that she would take her unusual first name so literally. Queen loves reading fairy tale books (she has 157), wearing crowns, admiring herself in the many mirrors which pronounce her the fairest and the smartest of all, and turning her best friend Symone into her pretend slave. So when new kid Leroy shows up at school smelling like pee but claiming to be a prince from Africa, Queen is not pleased. And when Queen is not pleased, everybody around her knows. In the process of trying to disprove Leroy's claims to royalty, Queen strikes up a friendship with an eccentric old man who helps her learn more about Africa, Leroy, and most of all herself. Flake, a frequent Coretta Scott King honoree, excels at making Queen likeable in spite of her undeniably obnoxious delusions of royal grandeur. She is less successful in her portrayals of Leroy and Cornelius. It's unclear why Leroy would smell so strongly of urine just from spending time in Cornelius's cat-filled apartment or why Queen's parents would be so tolerant of Leroy's own greedy demands and rudeness. And it is highly unconvincing that Cornelius would present Queen with an elaborate and obscure riddle that she must solve as a condition of his friendship or that she would be able to solve it. Still, for readers willing to go along on this somewhat implausible ride, Queen's company is a delightful reward.
School Library Journal

Gr 5-7
Queen Marie Rousseau is intelligent and capable. She is also bossy and selfish. Spoiled from birth by her father and three older brothers (and somewhat less by her mother) and homeschooled until she was in third grade, Queen has no idea how to relate to her fifth-grade classmates. She doesn't seem able to keep her mouth shut and often treats them with scorn. When a new boy, Leroy, appears in class-smelly, ill-dressed, and claiming he is from Africa-Queen is sure he is lying and becomes determined to prove it. Following him, she discovers that he is running errands for a neighbor, an actor who has developed agoraphobia. Queen bullies Leroy into telling her about Cornelius and tries to talk her way into his apartment. Her high-and-mighty attitude doesn't work with the man-he insists that she solve a complicated riddle and act decently before he will speak with her. So begins Queen's slow and bumpy realization that being pleasant will smooth her relationships with others. She eventually gains entrance into Cornelius's apartment and discovers all the memorabilia he has collected over a lifetime of world travel. And she finds a real friend in Leroy. Flake has created a character who is difficult and unlikable but at the same time sympathetic. Everything is wrapped up a little too quickly, but that will not deter readers from rooting for the child to change her attitude and find her place in the world.
—Terrie DorioCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Fifth-grader Queen narrates this tale of classroom discord and community connections. She's pampered-awash in nice clothes, crowns and mirrors. She fancies her turreted home a castle-though it's just across from the John Howard projects. Father playfully reinforces her royal status at home, but at school, Queen's default demeanor is mean and smart-alecky. Other children resent her, and her attitude rankles her teacher. Queen's infuriated by Leroy, a brave, self-possessed project kid who reeks (of cats, it turns out), lies like a rug (it seems), yet charms both classmates and Queen's kind parents. Queen's initial efforts-to prove Leroy a liar and hide behind her prissy self-preoccupation-transform into genuine attempts, aided by Mother, to be kind. Fascinated by Leroy's friend and neighbor, retired actor Cornelius Junction III, Queen works for his favor, earning entree into his cluttered, cat-filled apartment. There, like Leroy, she discovers Africa in Cornelius's artifacts and stories. First-person narration seems an odd choice, making identification with Queen (unlikable for much of the novel) problematic. Nonetheless, her progress feels real. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.62(d)
590L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Sharon G. Flake won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award for her first novel The Skin I'm In and is a two-time Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book winner. Beloved by children and adults, critics and booksellers, librarians and teachers, she is the author of a middle-grade novel and five books for young adults that have sold more than half a million copies. The mother of a college-age daughter, Flake writes full-time from her home in Pittsburgh.

To learn more about Ms. Flake, please visit her at

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Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great way to teach readers that reading can be fun while learning about relationships, bulluying and reading books can take you to places you have never visited.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Queen is an incredibly stuck up ten-year-old girl whose family's praise has given her a very high opinion of herself. Her father and older brothers have spoiled her to the point where she's very, very easy to dislike. Unsurprisingly, no one at school seems to appreciate or recognize her supposed superiority.

Leroy is a new boy in her class, who smells funny and whose bike is broken. Queen is sure that he's a liar, especially when he tells stories about being royalty from Africa, and she can't stand him. Her parents try to force her to be nice to him, so they are thrown together despite Queen's dislike. Through Leroy, Queen learns some important lessons.

She's still not a very likeable heroine, though. I don't think I was supposed to like her. Be prepared for that going into this book, and you'll be able to appreciate Sharon G. Flake's amazing (and unsurprising if you've read her previous books) talent.

I'm not sure how kids will feel about this book. Some of them may not be willing to read a book with a main character like Queen. But if they can give it a shot, it's a pretty enjoyable short novel.