The works of one award-winning author are impressive enough. Put two such authors together with an equally prolific illustrator and the result is unfairly good, also called Bink & Gollie. Published by Candlewick Press this past September, Bink & Gollie, I realize, may be outside the bounds of this “Newest of the New” post. I’ve justified it, however, by using the fact that the collection just received the coveted Geisel Award for 2011. Few stories are as entertaining to as wide of an age range as those created by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee in this book.
Bink and Gollie are two friends with a penchant for adventure and imagination. Bink is a small, apparently younger girl with a head of blond hair resembling the style of an onstage Cyndi Lauper. Her mind cruises at supersonic speeds as she impulsively becomes enamored with everything around her. Gollie is her taller, apparently older, and far more rational counterpart whose opinions are as neat and pronounced as the red bow in her hair. The girls are both very active, cruising around town on skates in warm weather and on the frozen lake in winter. They also go to the movies, climb mountains (imaginatively), cook, garden, and chat on the phone. They appeal to both genders (Bink, in fact, can very easily be confused for a boy if not for her skirt) and seem to know each other as if they were sisters. The two live presumably alone in their own houses, the contents of which sized to match its occupant. Together, their adventures in everyday life showcase their personalities and chemistry with one another and entertain readers of all ages.
Bink & Gollie is actually a collection of three stories surrounding the eponymous duo. In the first, a day of skating brings Bink and Gollie to an advertisement for a “bargain bonanza” on socks. Bink, of course, immediately falls in love with the most colorful socks in the bin, the garishness of which Gollie is unafraid to point out. After some stubbornness on both sides, a compromise brings the friends back together. The second story starts with Gollie deciding to venture off on another global adventure inside of her bedroom. Bink, despite obvious clues left on Gollie’s door, cannot help but constantly interrupt the concentration required to scale one’s living room wall in the middle of a blizzard. Finally, the third story is another love-at-first-sight tale with Bink this time acquiring a new pet goldfish. Despite Gollie’s constant belittlements, Bink continues to gush over her new best friend. In the end, however, it is Gollie who comes to the rescue when Bink and her fish are in the direst of predicaments.
The language and illustrations are really what set these stories apart from most other children’s books. Multiple Newbery honoree and winner Kate DiCamillo and New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize nominee Alison McGhee use advanced words and clever phrases for their astute characters’ dialogue. Whether it’s “using your gray matter”, “longing for speed”, “bonanzas”, “spectacular”, “remarkable”, or “marvelous companions” Bink & Gollie is sure to provide new vocabulary to all readers while not bogging down those in earlier stages of reading.
Tony Fucile brings the book to life with his illustrations. Most remarkable is the extremely deliberate use of color against the mostly black and white backgrounds. The characters are always bright and colorful as are the elements of the page which are supposed to draw the reader’s attention. It creates a very simple and clean look where everything important is highlighted against the rest. Bink and Gollie themselves appear just as their personalities would have you expect and have been drawn to look fun and mature without becoming too cute or stylized. It is an impressive effort which hands-down serves as a defining feature of the book.
In conclusion, Bink & Gollie is an absolute gem of children’s literature, new and old. It is suitable for both early starters who are on the reading fast-track and also older hi-lo students (high interest, low ability). Everything about the book is charming and it is certainly one I will remember for years to come; I recommend it with the highest praise possible.
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0297306/ (Tony Fucile profile)