I'm continuing my summer review of books. Today, it's an early chapter book and I'm already breaking the promise I made to only cover books available in audio versions. I cannot be trusted when tempted by irresistible books. Bink and Gollie made me do it! Even though they lack an audio version, non readers will enjoy the fun interactive links on their website. I dare you to go there and not giggle.
Kate DiCamillo, one of my favorite authors teamed up with Alison McGhee to write Bink and Gollie and they've recently released a second book, Bink and Gollie: Two for One. Award-winning illustrator, Tony Fucile captured the authors as children in Bink (a petite Kate with wild blond hair) and Gollie (a tall, thin Alison in managed, brown locks). The art is done in dynamic strokes, simple washes and minimal color. Unlike other early chapter books where the art merely illustrates the story, the art in Bink and Gollie is essential to the plot.
The book offers vignettes in three chapters: Don't You Need a New Pair of Socks, P.S. I'll Be Back Soon, and Give a Fish a Home. Bink is a cheerful, impulsive girl who zips around town in roller skates and a skirt. She lives in a rustic cottage at the base of a tree, likes colorful socks and peanut butter sandwiches. Gollie lives in a minimalist, ultra-modern house in the tree's branches. She likes long words, mental stimulation and pancakes. In the first chapter, the girls happen upon a sock sale. Bink finds the perfect pair of socks and Gollie says, "The brightness of those socks pains me. I beg you not to purchase them." Bink hugs the socks and responds, "I can't wait to put them on." Their differences try their friendship in comical ways but their bond is never broken. Bink and Gollie won the 2011 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award and they have stolen my heart.
Students are counting minutes until the last school day and daydreaming about summer adventures. Some kids will find those adventures in books. So for the next few months, I'll review books that lead the mind on fantastic journeys. And for non-readers, I'm only covering books available in audio form. Listen to them on that long car ride to Aunt Ethel's (or some relative who lives hours away and pinches your cheek). I promise you won't be sorry.
My first pick is packed so full of wondrous tales, I'm surprised it doesn't spontaneously combust! The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is introduced by Lemony Snicket who begins, "Is There any author more mysterious than Harris Burdick"? Who can resist reading on? Lemony says Harris appeared over twenty-five years ago in a a publisher's office with a stack of titled drawings. The publisher was intriqued and Harris promised to return the next day with the stories behind the art. That was the last anyone saw of him.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg (of Polar Express and Jumanji fame) was published in 1984. To this day, Harris Burdick's drawings continue to inspire writers, animators and songwriters, all featured on Van Allsburg's website. Last year, the drawings hatched The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a collection of fourteen stories by illustrious writers, including some of my favorites: Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, and M.T. Anderson. The irresistable tales flex the mind with titles like ""Uninvited Guests"" by Jules Feiffer, ""The House on Maple Street"" by Stephen King and "'Just Desert"" by M.T. Anderson. My personal favorite so far (I'm savoring them!) is ""The Harp"" by Linda Sue Park. Imagine an old magician who isn't quite ready to retire, two bickering sisters banished outdoors by annoyed parents, and a boy, mourning his mother and facing a miserable summer with an "off the grid" grandfather. The stories tickle the mind, raising questions that will linger long after the last word is read. We found Burdick's chronicles in the middle grade section of the library but the writing is sophisticated enough to entertain older teens and adults. You'll want to check the book out even if you prefer the audio version. The unseen drawings will trouble your sleep if you don't!
I'm not a person who handles creative productivity slumps well. So, with my latest novel project stalled, I turned to a picture book I'd written. The text could be improved but what it really needed was art. After a week of uninspired drawing, I headed to the library for resource material and came home empty handed. How is it that two local libraries lack books on Louisiana?
I'm trying really hard not to panic about the absence of my artist self. She'll come back. She has to come back. Art's been a vital part of my life since toddlerhood. I can't imagine my life without it. I thought back to those early years when horses ruled my drawing. Eventually, I added dogs and people to my portfolio. An idea surfaced. Why not go back to the subjects I loved to draw the most, horses and dogs, find the joy art used to bring me before it became a job.
I immediately knew the story I would write about a very special dog who grew up with a horse trainer. But I also knew I needed support. I've tried to go it alone the last few months and it just doesn't work for me. The January news from Florida SCBWI mentioned the Dummy Book Challenge, a guided sixteen-week process from story idea to finished dummy at kidlitart . I signed up before doubt interfered. Then I emailed Rob, the leader of my old picture book group, asking if they had room for one more. I'm waiting on their reply. Next step, gathering photos of my subject, who is now deceased. I don't have many but I know the ones I have will make me smile and I'm hoping . . . praying, that they make my fingers itch for a pencil and paper.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Lorin Oberweger - Freelance Editor