Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bink & Gollie

  • Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile

At first I thought Bink and Gollie were sisters, but they are best friends who learn to get along even though they have differences. One lives in the house in a tree while the other lives in a house on the ground. Three adventures take place with no parents present in the story. Bink is short with hair that looks like a dandelion. She is energetic and carefree. Gollie, on the other hand, writes and speaks in sentences using big words that Bink can't understand half the time. She is smart, organized and looks neat. In the first adventure Bink buys a pair of bright socks that irritate Gollie so much she doesn't want to be with her if she is wearing them. They have to learn to compromise in order to solve their problem. In the second adventure, Gollie is pretending to climb the Andes Mountains in her room, but Bink keeps knocking on her door because she wants to be with her and have a peanut butter sandwich. Gollie eventually lets her in and the two pretend together. The third adventure has Bink buying a pet goldfish and Gollie is irritated or jealous that Bink wants it as a friend. When Bink has an accident with Fred (her goldfish), Gollie is the only one that knows how to save it.   

I love these characters. Bink is an active girl who wears a skirt and sneakers. I read the book to seven grade 1 and grade 2 classes and many asked if Bink was a girl or boy.  She has a strong character, is good-natured and doesn't get mad or give in when Gollie tries persuading her to not buy the bright socks and the goldfish. Gollie has a neat bob with a barrett holding her hair off her face. Her socks go over her knees and she likes to be dramatic and use big words. I must journey forth into the wider world. But where? Tasmania? Timbuktu? This book is reminiscent of Frog and Toad and their friendship; one where they irritate and adore each other. Like Frog and Toad, each chapter is complete in itself ; that is, the action at the beginning of the chapter is resolved at the end of the chapter. Unlike Frog and Toad, Bink & Gollie uses difficult words such as bonanza, compromise, gray matter, marvelous companion, outrageous, and more. The words repeat themselves and the illustrations help with children understanding their meaning.    

Tony Fucile, illustrator, did an incredible job that gives this book a unique look not found in any other easy readers. His illustrations give the girls their distinct characters such as Bink with her peanut butter sandwiches and the illusion of constant movement, to Gollie with her pancakes, staid personality and deliberate movement. Fucile worked as an animator on the movie, The Incredibles, and Bink reminds me of the character, Dash. Although according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune they are supposed to represent the two authors. The layouts are different than any books to date. A full page spread is followed by another that is divided into three sections that show Bink falling down with the goldfish. Other pages separate the story into scenes such as the example to the left.   

I wasn't sure if Fucile's illustrations would give young readers enough clues to help them work out the difficult words in the text or if the repetition in the storyline was enough for readers to figure out words not in their vocabulary. After reading it to seven classes I found that most of them were able to figure out all the difficult words in the text because of the clues in the pictures. I had more success with the grade 2 students. For instance, they were able to figure out the idiom of's either Gollie's way or the highway and the metaphor gray matter. The book is 96 pages and the first graders had problems staying with it. Except they loved the third adventure and it was able to pull their attention back to the story; however, they got a little restless during the second story. The double-page spreads are magnificent. The students laughed at Bink who has to take her fish to the movie theater and they gasped when Bink fell and the fishbowl seemed to fly out of the page of the book. The aerial view of Bink falling is marvelous. While this book looks like a level 1 reader and has a reading level of 1.5, it is really more appropriate for the level 2 reader because of the length and difficulty of the words. A book I can read over and over and over. I can see why it won the 2010 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award.

Reading Level 1.5

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) 5 Smileys

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

Ever have one of those days where everything seems to go wrong?

Meet Ry.

He's had one of those days. And while this is a realistic fiction book, you have to suspend your belief in reality because the things that go wrong with Ry are unbelieveable in the book, As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, by Newbery medal winner, Lynn Rae Perkins.

So what goes wrong? 

Ry gets off a stalled train to make a cellphone call when the train takes off leaving him stranded in the middle of Montana with no food or water. He hikes to a town and along the way loses a shoe, gets a bloody nose, and a black eye. He tries calling people with the phone but no one answers. His parents are on a trip and his grandpa is taking care of him.

In town, Ry meets a nice and stubborn man named Del who decides to help him by driving him to Wisconsin to find Grandpa. Ry calls Del the "ninja cowboy fix-it man" who can repair and build just about anything. Their adventures and castrophes continue like a steam engine on full power as they become friends on their unlikely road trip.

The character descriptions in this book are fantastic. The thoughts of Ry are funny and the prose beautiful:

Ry found himself looking at the tattos on Pete's arms. There were two, one per arm.

A colorful dragon was entwined like a magnificent 2-D pet around one arm. The tip of its tail pointed at Pete's shoulder. It breathed orange and yellow flames onto his wrist. On the other arm was a coiled snake and the words DON'T TREAD ON ME. Or was it - wait - there was a t missing. Whoever had done the tattoo had left out the second "t." It would be an easy mistake to make, you might be doing one t and your mind would go on to the next letter. The words on the scroll said, DON'T READ ON ME. (p 54)

I thought the plot was messy and Lloyd's story took away from the main story (even if it was written well - I love the description of Lloyd drinking coffee on the porch.) I also got exhausted by the descriptive prose. The author has so many beautiful sentences piled on top of each other that capture the essence of the passage it slows down the reading and the pacing. For a hyperactive person like myself , it was hard for me to stick with the story when reading the slow passages - I started to skim. I probably should have put the book down and picked it up rather than read it in two sittings. I might have enjoyed it more if I had savored it slowly. Or not. I might still have been impatient for the resolution.

The book has two near death experiences for Ry, but he is such an easy-going traveler and doesn't panic that they aren't presented in a frightening way. Also, the vocabulary is going to be high for a 5th grader. To wrap up, the characters are quirky and the descriptions are beautiful but the plot was unsatisfying for me in this book.

:-) :-) :-) 3 Smileys