Aili McConnon, co-author of Road to Valor, transfixed our seventh and eighth graders on Friday when she shared the story of her book's subject, Italian cyclist Gino Bartali.
Bartali, a 1938 and 1948 Tour de France winner, secretly helped the Italian Resistance during World War II by transporting forged identity documents in the frame of his bicycle and hiding Jews in an apartment he was able to afford with his winnings from cycling races.
Ms. McConnon, who is also the aunt to third grader Lachlan, explained how she and her brother, Andres, were able to trace Bartali's history, despite having few details to go on. There had been little published about the athlete, and many of those who had known him well were deceased.
This presentation resonated deeply with the boys in attendance. Our seventh graders give Chapel talks in the spring about exceptional people, like Bartali, who act as Agents for the Good in the world. Eighth graders, back from their Italian Study Tour, could appreciate how difficult it must have been for Bartali to cycle nearly 110 hilly miles between Florence and Assisi to shuttle forged identity papers under the watchful eyes of Nazis and Fascist guards at the checkpoints along the route.
We are most grateful to Ms. McConnon for sharing her time and stories with the boys, and also to Lachlan's mother, Lindsay, for introducing Ms. McConnon to the Author Series Committee Co-Chairs Ann Roberts and Liz Carey. Each year, The PA Author Series sponsors inspiring visits by published authors who discuss their works and the writing process with our boys.