Bink & Gollie: Two for One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Tony Fucile. Candlewick Press, 2012. Currently available.
Genre: Picture book/easy reader.
Face Value: Stunning. The eager faces! The mysterious crystal ball and hands creeping from the foreground! This cover shows the reader a glimpse of the humor and heart that they will find inside the book. Tony Fucile’s illustrations have reached new heights of awesome (more on that later).
Does it break the slate? Bink and Gollie are two of my newest favorite Slatebreaking characters. These girls are independent yet codependent. As a twosome, they can conquer anything, and they never have to go an adult to help them get things done. Yet when things interfere with their friendship, they are less successful in their pursuits, because it is the power of their matched strengths and energies that makes them so capable. In the first Bink and Gollie book, we watch the two girls navigate differences of opinion in their relationship. In Bink and Gollie: Two for One, we see how they support each other through mishaps and disappointments. These characters model flexible, supportive friendship and intelligent conversation for young girl readers. They are brilliant.
Who would we give it to? This is great book for young readers who have moved past the majority of the easy reader series and need something a little more intriguing, with snappier dialogue. I would recommend it as a nice co-reading opportunity for adults and kids, because you can enjoy the amazing pictures together and sound out some of the more challenging words. The vocabulary in these books is challenging, and young readers will get good practice using context clues to determine the meanings of new words. Because this book is the second in a series, those who are just getting to know Bink and Gollie should start with the first book to get a little background insight into this dynamic friendship before reading Two for One.
Review: The Bink and Gollie books are a telling measure of how Sarah and I respond to new and exciting books. First, we buy copies rather than getting them from the library. Second, we read them over and over again and memorize lines of the character dialogue. Third, we have elaborate conversations about what it would be like if we were Bink and Gollie in real life (except Sarah and I are both totally Gollies, so we would have to find some more carefree Bink types to balance us out). The differences in our responses to Two for One, the second book in the Bink and Gollie series, also reveal a lot about us. Sarah enjoyed this second book but wasn’t as ecstatically excited about it as the first one. I, however, loved this Bink and Gollie book even more than the first, for one important reason: the state fair. In Bink and Gollie: Two for One, the girls have an adventurous day at the state fair. I love the state fair. I love all of the weird and wonderful things you can find at a fair. And I love this book, because it combines Slatebreaking female characters with a wacky and wonderful state fair setting.
Like the first Bink and Gollie book, Two for One is divided up into three shorter segments. Each segment can stand on its own as a story, yet as a whole they tell the tale of a full day spent at the state fair. These segments are carefully crafted so that they each have their own marvelous little arc of humor or sadness or triumph, yet they also come together into a greater story arc that reveals just how wonderful of an adventure two girls can have at a state fair. I loved how the three stories bridged the range of emotion from humor to despair, and then brought it all to a point of hopeful closure at the end.
The first story, “Whack a Duck”, showcases the fundamental differences in the friends’ personalities. Bink is a bit of a loose cannon, and Gollie is matter-of-fact. Although this story was little more than a simple chronicle of a mishap at a game booth, it managed to get me laughing so hard that my abs hurt. Tony Fucile’s drawings get the credit for the hilarity in this story. The two-page illustrated spread of Bink winding up for her first pitch was the funniest thing I’ve seen in children’s books so far in 2012. And to top it off, DiCamillo and McGhee add minimal yet sparkling dialogue, like this:
The second story, “You’re Special, Aren’t You?” takes readers with the two friends as Gollie makes an ill-fated appearance at the fair talent show. Stage fright gets the best of Gollie, and she is completely mortified as she freezes up on in front of a full house. Once again, Fucile’s drawings stole the show and amplified the emotional component of this segment. There are side-by-side drawings of the packed auditorium, with Gollie standing lonely and scared on stage. In each drawing, the perspective moves back so that we understand just how massive the crowd is and just how intimidating this must be for Gollie. The way that Fucile presents this context, with no words or dialogue, is simply brilliant. I enjoyed his illustrations in the first book, but I adored them in book #2. I spent many minutes pouring over the drawings on each page, noting the amazing attention to detail.
When Bink helps her friend recover from this embarrassment through a simple recitation in the cow barn, I shed a tear. It was a warm and heartfelt moment of a friend knowing just what to do help her best buddy feel better. There is no sniping, no gloating, and no snarking. Bink and Gollie know how to take care of one another. To me, some of the best literature to share with young girl readers shows models of respectful and supportive friendship. Bink and Gollie demonstrate that in a way that recalls hallowed literary friendships such as bosom buddies Anne and Diana, but with a twenty-first century sensibility.
In all seriousness, this book had me going from laughing to crying within the span of 80 pages. There are few books in the picture book/easy reader category that can move me to that degree. A masterful team crafts the Bink and Gollie books. DiCamillo, McGhee, and Fucile have found just the right balance of text and illustration, as well as humor and heart. I cannot wait for book #3.
Reviewed from a copy purchased at Fireside Books in West Bend, WI.