Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bink and Gollie: Best Friends Forever by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile

Bink and Gollie have the best of both worlds, with a classic style and a contemporary flair. In the classic tradition of easy reader odd couples, Bink and Gollie are total opposites, both physically and in personality, but they're best friends nonetheless.

There are three chapters, each containing a separate story. In the first story, Gollie is thrilled to discover she's really royalty. When short and spunky Bink comes over to hear the exciting news, she's disappointed that Gollie is no longer going to cook pancakes for her and leaves. At first, Gollie enjoys being a queen, but eventually she misses Bink and is happy to go back to being plain old Gollie again.

In the second story, Bink is tired of being short and tries out a marvelous invention to grow taller. It doesn't quite work the way she had hoped, but with some help from Gollie she feels taller in the end, even if she hasn't grown at all. In the third and final story, Bink and Gollie decide to start a collection, hoping to get their names and picture in a book of records. With a little help from another friend, they find a way to make a record even if they don't have an amazing collection.

Fucile's facile illustrations use an economy of line to express emotions, humor, and action. Bink and Gollie are splashes of bright color in a gray and white world, their backgrounds fading behind them as they skate through the story.

In addition to being an odd couple, Bink and Gollie returns to another older style in not fitting perfectly into any of the tightly boxed publishing categories. Are they an easy reader? Well, they're a little oversized, but they have the odd couple, three short chapters, brief text, and spot illustrations. But the text is much more advanced than the typical easy reader. Are they a beginning chapter book? They're way oversized for that genre, and while the vocabulary level matches a chapter book, the limited text and colored illustrations are more in line with an easy reader. Some libraries just give up the fight and put them in graphic novel, or even picture book. I recently moved them from easy reader to the general juvenile fiction area to fully honor what I think is the most classic part of their style - stepping out of the bounds of typical publishing levels and creating a story that's both sweet and tart and utterly unique. The emphasis in Bink and Gollie is on the fun of the story, the suspension of disbelief, the delightful illustrations and not on what reading level or comprehension is appropriate for whoever is lucky enough to light upon the adventures of Bink and Gollie.

Verdict: Wherever you decide to put these stories, they are a delight with a sly sense of humor and a topping of silly. For the right child, these are the stories that will stick with them until they go searching for them again to introduce them to their own child.

ISBN: 9780763634971; Published 2013 by Candlewick; Borrowed from the library

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