Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Bink and Gollie: Two For One by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee (ARC)

Bink and Gollie: Two for One. by Alison McGhee and Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Tony Fucile. June 12, 2012. Candlewick Press. 96 pages. ISBN: 9780763633615

Bink and Gollie are back in their second set of adventures, all of which take place at the state fair. The first story, "Whack a Duck," introduces the girls to the perils of carnival games when Bink decides she absolutely must win a large donut in exchange for whacking a duck. In the second story, "You're Special, Aren't You?" Gollie enters a talent show without actually preparing a talent. Finally, in "Without Question" Bink and Gollie have their fortunes told by Madame Prunely, who has messages about their past and future.

This is another strong, funny, and heartwarming collection of vignettes, which portrays not just the ups and downs of life, but the support and constancy of true friendship. As in the first Bink and Gollie story, Tony Fucile truly captures each girl's personality with the wonderful way he draws facial expressions and body movements. I was particularly struck by the way I could almost hear each girl's manner of speech just from looking at the illustrations. Alison McGhee and Kate DiCamillo also keep the story fresh with lots of humor, which comes across most often in the characters' dialogue, not just with each other, but with supporting characters as well. Especially memorable is the man who runs the Whack a Duck booth; he takes a baseball to the face when Bink throws just a bit too hard.

At first glance, the writing in this book seems very sophisticated, which made me question whether it would truly work for early readers. When I went back to analyze the text more closely, though, I realized that the vocabulary of the story, with few exceptions, is actually very basic. Many words such as "duck," "Whack," "stage", "talent," and "friend" are introduced and then repeated over and over again, reinforcing their meaning. Sentence structure, particularly where there is dialogue, is very simple, and the speaker is always identified. The story itself is so entertaining that it's easy to miss its simplicity, but the authors have done a really thorough job of making sure their intended audience will truly be able to read their book. I imagine a couple of words - "scepter" and "tragedy", for example - might pose a challenge for newer readers, but I don't think it's a challenge that couldn't be met by a child accustomed to reading Level 2 and Level 3 easy readers. I also love the inclusion of signs and other printed material in the illustrations themselves. What a great way to foster print awareness, which is one of the important early literacy skills kids need to develop before learning to read.

Sequels sometimes turn out to be mistakes, and they can create a formula out of what was previously fresh, exciting material. Bink and Gollie: Two for One, is decidedly not one of those mistakes. Every bit as lovely and satisfying as the first, this second book about these irresistible best friends explores further their connection, and also gives kids a look into the world of state fairs, which for some kids will be a foreign concept.

In addition to the original Bink and Gollie, also pair Bink and Gollie: Two for One with Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad series, The Friends for Keeps chapter book series by Julie Bowe, and Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie books.

Bink and Gollie: Two for One will be published on June 12, 2012, just in time for summer reading!

I received a digital ARC of Bink and Gollie, Two For One from Candlewick Press via NetGalley.

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

NOTE ADDED 10/9/12: This book was nominated by  Deb Nance at Readerbuzz for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks! 

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