Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bink and Gollie, written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile (2010)

Bink and Gollie (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))This 2011 Geisel Medal winner doesn't quite fit the traditional parameters of the early reader.  Like Grace Lin's Ling and Ting, it's divided into multiple chapters (in this case three), but unlike Lin's book, it doesn't play by the "rules" of the early reader with respect to vocabulary and sentence structure.  But it is a delightful read aloud and---even more importantly---a memorable and emotionally rich story.

Bink and Gollie is the brainchild of two authors who normally don't write collaboratively with anyone.  Kate Di Camillo has been a Newbery honoree for her middle-grade novels Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereux (and has previously been recognized by the Geisel folks for one of her Mercy Watson early chapter books).  Alison McGhee is less well-known in the world of children's books but is a prolifc, award-winning author in her own right.  And illustrator Tony Fucile is a veteran Disney/Pixar animator as well as the author/illustrator of the picture book Let's Do Nothing.

Like Frog and Toad, Elephant and Piggie, and so many other classic characters in children's literature, Bink and Gollie join a long line of unlikely BFFs whose loyal friendships and embrace of difference---along with their charming eccentricities---endear them to readers young and old.  The two girls live next door to each other---gloriously sans adults---in dwellings that tell us a great deal about who they are.  Older, taller, elegant Gollie lives in a postmodern treehouse whose decor can best be described as "mod" and whose kitchen produces perfect pancakes.  Younger, brasher Bink, with her wild, uncombed hair, garish rainbow socks, and relative disregard for public opinion, inhabits a scaled-down cottage at the foot of the tree, lined with shelves full of peanut butter, on which she largely subsists.  And in each of the three chapters, their differences temporarily---and most comically---drive them apart, leading them in each case to a deeper understanding of the other and then to a joyful (and equally comic) reunion.

Fucile's cartoonish illustrations reflect his background in animation.  Using largely a black and white palette (bold pen and ink paired with softer greys), he uses touches of color very sparingly but effectively through powerful visual contrast.  His expressive drawings perfectly capture the energy, personalities and the emotional journeys of both girls. They vividly bring the girls' whimsical homes to life on the page, leading us eagerly into the fantasy.  And they add a whole other layer of humor, both to the girls' actions and interactions and to his lively, witty streetscapes.

Notes:  You can preview the first 10 pages of the book here.  I've also included a link to Betsy Bird's exuberant and detailed School Library Journal review.

Miss E's Read:  She says she most loves "that there's an older one and a younger one," and thus resonates with many of her (and, I imagine, other children's) pretend play fantasies.  The pet-fish-roller-skating-oopsie incident in the last story hit a little too close to home (even though it turns out far better than any of our own fish crises have), and we do have to skip those pages ;)

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