Wednesday, January 26, 2011

1. Bink & Gollie

Written by Kate DeCamillo, Alison McGhee
Illustrated by Tony Fucile
$15.99, ages 4-8, 96 pages

Two pals get into spats, but discover that if they each give a little, they can work things out in DiCamillo and McGee's adorable 2011 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner.

Bink and Gollie look nothing alike, but as they swap knowing glances on the cover of this early reader, you get the feeling they're alike where it really counts.

Though Bink is short and Gollie is tall, and their clothes and hair-dos are very different, each girl is adventurous and gets what the other is about.

Bink, with her flyaway hair, jumps into life, unconcerned with what others think, and it's that confidence that immediately endears her to us.

Gollie is reserved, but strong-willed. She longs for speed and spurs the two to roller-skate as fast as they can. She also imagines doing thrilling things, though she never goes far from her tree house.

Most of the time Gollie and Bink are game for what the other wants to do, but sometimes they're stubborn and won't budge enough to compromise.

Over three spare, energy-filled chapters, we see how a tiff between Bink and Gollie can blow up into an argument that neither really wants to have and can hide something else that's bothering one of them.

In the first chapter, Bink decides she has to get rainbow socks, and though Gollie thinks they're atrocious, she follows her on roller-skates to the five-and-dime and sticks by while Bink rummages through a bin.

But you can tell that the socks are really bugging Gollie. So when Bink asks Gollie on the way home if she'll whip up her classic pancake stack, Gollie gets persnickety and tells Bink she has to lose the socks first.

Bink, however, is not about give up her socks. She thinks Gollie's compromise is far from fair. So she calls Gollie's bluff and walks out her tree house with her socks proudly pulled up to her knees.

For a time, the two hold their ground, waiting for the other to give in. But then they realize at exactly the same time that they'd much rather hang out together than be sticks in the mud.

Both meet half-way on the stairs that connect Gollie's tree house to Bink's cottage at the bottom of the tree. Gollie reaches out to Bink with half a stack of pancakes and Bink offers her one of her socks, which Gollie proudly turns into a windsock.

"It's a compromise bonanza," Bink beams.

In Chapter 2, Gollie decides it's high time for an adventure and while spinning her globe of Earth, covers her eyes, plunks her finger down to find a place to go, and it lands on the Andes Mountains.

Gollie acts like she wants to go it alone, though you can tell she doesn't really want to. She tacks a sign to her door telling "anyone" that she shouldn't be disturbed, knowing this will only make Bink want to enter the tree house more.

In some of the best illustrations in the book, we see Gollie on one side of her door scaling a steep snowy mountain with a pickaxe and on other the side, Bink coming back again and again, trying to get her to let her inside.

Eventually, Gollie reaches the peak and realizes there's no one she'd rather share her victory with than Bink and invites Bink in. Together they sit on the imaginary peak, with Gollie's windsock firmly planted on the peak, dining on Bink's peanut butter sandwiches.

In the last chapter and the most poignant, Bink sees a goldfish she has to have. So she quickly buys it, names it, "Fred," and begins taking it with wherever she goes.

Bink refers to Fred as her "marvelous companion," and talks about him all the time, which doesn't thrill Gollie because now Gollie is feeling less important.

Resentment builds until one day as the two are roller-skating, Gollie's jealousy gets the better of her. She takes off in huff ahead of Bink and Bink, clutching her fish bowl with both hands, chases after her, only to trip over a rock she doesn't see.

Flying through the air, Bink loses her hold of the fish bowl. It crashes to the ground, shatters, and her beloved fish flops out.

Gollie immediately skids to a stop, races back, scoops up the fish, slips it into her shirt pocket and zips off to a nearby pond and drops him in.

Bink yells to her to stop, but Gollie doesn't listen and soon Bink's marvelous companion is too deep to retrieve, a smudge of orange in a murky pond.

Could it be that there's an even more marvelous companion up top?

This bubbly fun book has so many great lessons. Of course compromise is a huge one, as is forgiveness, but it also shouts: be who you are and don't let anyone hold you back.

If you know DiCamillo and McGhee from their pictures in addition to their amazing books, you may have noticed that Bink resembles DiCamillo and McGhee Gollie.

Bink is short of stature like DiCamillo and has bushy hair, Gollie is a lanky brunette like McGhee (though apparently neither took to roller-skates as children like Bink and Gollie).
DiCamillo and McGhee say they didn't set out to create characters like themselves, but as they mulled over what to write together, their spirits entered the girls.
This, in turn, inspired Fucile to draw the girls from the authors' girlhood pictures. The result is a whirling, happy-to-be, you-and-me delight.

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