I found a new favorite for me and possibly my 6-year-old niece. Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite children’s authors. My introduction to her work was with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. In 2001 she received a Newbery Honor for Because of Winn Dixie and last year she won the Newbery Award for Flora & Ulysses, a tale of a cynical girl and a poetic squirrel.
In my hunt for fun new books for my little buddy, I skipped early chapter books and went right to children’s novels because those are what I remember from my childhood. Right now, novels are a little too challenging, but early chapter books are perfect. This re-discovery has opened up a whole room of the library filled with colorful stories with lots of dialogue. My niece loves reading dialogue, making up different voices and pretending to be each character. When I’m good and my socks match she lets me read the sound effects but I must do so with feeling.
Bink and Gollie are rollerskating best friends. Bink is a playful, cheerfully messy girl with wide eyes and Andy Warhol hair. Gollie is a sophisticated, cultured traveler of the world who lives on a tree. They enjoy good pancakes and adventure. My kind of gals.
This is the first of three books (so far) and it’s composed of three short stories. This worked really well with my niece. She loves to read and really really loves to read out loud to people. Her attention span tends to wane midway through – she gets snacky or distracted as her younger daredevil sister rides a mattress down the stairs. So the shorter length was perfect. She’d read one story, taking her time to explore the illustrations, put the book down and pick it up again after running off some energy.
Speaking of the illustrations! Tony Fucile’s art alone makes this book worth owning. The style is accessible, and goes beyond illustrative. It isolates the central action or subject of that part of the story with color, while leaving the setting in black and white line drawings. The contrast is visually striking and helps young readers stay in the story instead of getting caught up in pronouncing and understanding every word correctly. After re-reading a few times, she was able to understand new words through context rather than asking me.
The stories offer funny lessons in compromise, imagination and compassion. DiCamillo said in one interview that Bink & Gollie tell the oldest story of all, the story of friendship. There’s something very special about this book. Bink & Gollie are often compared to Frog and Toad and I can see why. They warm you heart in the same way. The stories are particular and easy to love.