Tag: Picture Books

Bink and Gollie

by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee

The two roller-skating friends go to the fair. (Disappointingly, they only wore skates in the first scene when pausing in front of posters on the street. Regular sneakers for the rest of the story). Bink wants to win a giant doughnut at the whack-a-duck game, but her wild attempts repeatedly hit the man who ran the booth instead. Full force. In the face. Really. I found this very disturbing. Why wouldn’t the guy stand off to the side, especially after getting nailed the first time? As someone still recovering from a head injury, I know very well what it’s like to struggle getting your words out. Seeing this guy with facial injuries stammering his sentences out of order really bothered me. Too recent, too relevant.

Well, Bink doesn’t win anything. They buy some mini doughnuts to eat instead. Next Gollie wants to participate in the talent show, but gets a bad case of stage fright and can’t perform. Afterwards she recites her poem to Bink in a barn. Discouraged, the two visit a fortune-teller’s tent. She hints that they will always be friends and Gollie is reassured: “that’s all the future I need to know.” It was nice, but just fell a little flat for me. Maybe I’m simply ready to move on from picture books now.

Illustrated by Tony Fucile. Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5
84 pages, 2012

Bink and Gollie

by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee

The two opposite friends– one short and one tall. One rough-and-tumble, always eager. The other more refined and reserved by nature. Three stories again. In the first, Gollie feels certain (due to a great-great-aunt ancestor looking elegant in an old photo) that she must have royal blood. So she claims to be a queen but Bink won’t put up with her new haughty attitude. Gollie then strolls around outside where her proclamations are all ignored. Back home, lonely in the rain, she finally takes off her crown and is welcomed inside by Bink- as her regular old self. In the second story, Bink is tired of being unable to reach things up high on her own. She orders a “stretch-o-matic” device, but the assembly is difficult and goes awry. Gollie is skeptical about the whole idea of using it. The thing falls apart, crashes into piece and they reassemble it as a random art object instead. Bink realizes she’s satisfied to just stay the way she is. In the last story, the two friends decide to set a record by having the largest collection of in the world of something- but what? They start out with gold star stickers, but quickly get discouraged. Decide to just celebrate their friendship instead.

This volume didn’t charm me quite as much as the first, but I did like that, even though it wasn’t an actual feature in the storyline, the two wore roller skates everywhere they went!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
96 pages, 2013

illustrated by Hilary Knight

by Kay Thompson

Eloise and Nanny go to Moscow. It’s super cold (her turtle gets shipped back home on page 8 or 9). It’s the Cold War era so the entire book has a very somber atmosphere. Everyone is eyeing each other with suspicion, wariness or just plain looking angry (even the geese on the roadside). Eloise and Nanny are shown around formally with a guide and translator, and obviously followed the whole time by someone keeping an eye on what they do. They view stupendous palaces and museums, public works, a crowded department store, extravagantly decorated subway stations and the Red Square. Most of the time can’t even go into buildings because something is closed, or there’s no tickets available, or some other reason. And all the while Eloise is on good behavior, which makes this book such a contrast to the others (especially the flair of Paris) that it’s just stunning. I think the only naughty thing she did on the whole trip was sneak around the hotel at night spying through keyholes.

She knew she was being watched. The contrast is such a shocker, it’s worth reading the first few (original) Eloise books just to see how different this one is. Of course, Moscow isn’t like this now, so it’s something of a historical piece as well, in its own way. Apparently based on the author’s own visit to Russia during the same timeframe.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
80 pages, 1951

by Kay Thompson

Eloise and her nanny go to Paris (a repeat trip). Taking along her pug dog and her pet turtle! They go around everywhere and do everything- from visiting famous landmarks and sights, to picnicking by the Seine, carriage rides, fancy cafes, the Louvre, and trying escargot. Of course, Eloise is her regular bratty self-centered charmer, jumping into public fountains, staring openly at kissing couples

and trying the patience of hotel staff (those back in New York did seem relieved to see her go!) The illustrations show so well her initial exuberance

and final exhaustion, literally dragging her feet- don’t we all feel that way at the end of a long trip- and then glad to be home again.

I liked the first book better, but this one was still fun. Maybe don’t read it to your kids though, if you think they’ll emulate her atrocious behavior!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
68 pages, 1957

More opinions:
Parisian Fields

by Jessica Love

Story told mostly in pictures. Beautifully done. Julián accompanies his grandmother to the public pool and on the way home sees three women dressed up as mermaids, on the subway. He’s enthralled. Once home, he dresses himself up as a mermaid too, using a curtain for the tail and peacock feathers as a headdress. When his grandmother reappears in the room, he looks momentarily ashamed- worried what she will think? judging him for dressing up in what’s assumed to be a feminine manner (though surely there are male mermaids, too)? Grandmother doesn’t scold. She takes his hand and leads him outside, down towards the beach, where they join a parade of people all dressed up as mermaids and other sea creatures (I really liked the jellyfish costumes). Simple but powerful message of acceptance.

Rating: 4/5
36 pages, 2018

by Qin Leng

Mimi is smaller than all her classmates, brothers and sisters, even the family dog. She laments about the difficulties in being short, naming all the things that are taller or larger than herself. But then friends and family gently point out there are many benefits to being the smallest, too! And a new arrival to the family shows Mimi she’s not so very small after all. Cute and sweet.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
42 pages, 2018

illustrated by David Small

by Sarah Stewart

Elizabeth Brown loves to do one thing- read. She ignores dolls and roller skates (ha ha) as a kid, boys and parties when older, just always consumed by her love of reading. When grown up and gets her own house, she fills it with books- until there isn’t room for anything else! What will she do? Lovely solution. Love of cats, too, by the pictures. I think it’s fairly obvious why I liked this book so much, the drawings of stacks and stacks of books surrounding a cozy chair just made me smile ear to ear.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
40 pages, 1995

illustrated by David Roberts

by Carolyn Crimi

An alley cat writes an advice column for other animals. She tells a pampered housecat who doesn’t like sardines, sweaters or rides in the doll carriage, that he’s actually got it pretty cushy. She points out to a bored basset hound that he has to go out and find happiness, advises a dizzy hamster who feels like he’s getting nowhere to get off the exercise wheel, lets an overly-talkative parrot know that he needs to learn to listen, and gives a lonely skunk hope that someday he’ll find his own special someone. And a nervous groundhog with stage fright needs encouragement to just shine on his one day in the spotlight. The animals all (mostly) attempt to take her advice, and in the end Tabby finds a perfect solution to improve her own situation as well. Cute, good perspective on things, and made me laugh!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
34 pages, 2011

More opinions:
Jen Robinson’s Book Page
anyone else?

illustrated by Sydney Smith

by Jordan Scott

Another lovely picture book I picked up browsing- just because I liked the cover so much. This was another one with a strong metaphor for an emotional struggle, in this case based on the author’s own experience, as he eloquently explains in the final pages. A young boy spends most of his days in silence, dreading the moments he’ll be asked to speak in class. He has a stutter: the words come out broken, jumbled, confused- or not at all. After a particularly difficult day at school, his father takes him to the riverside and points out that while the river has choppy and rough water, it also has calm and placid moments. Just like his speech. The images in this book are simple, calm and beautiful. I was really taken by one picture that had reflections in layers of color across each other (boy looking out of a window). How the light glows through his ears, dances in jots of light off the water, etc. You can almost feel it moving. I was a tad surprised to find some reviews online criticizing this book for being unhelpful to any child with a speech disorder- but I don’t think it was meant to give coaching on how to deal with the impediment or stutter itself, just imparting a feeling of acceptance and understanding between parent and child. To give the boy reassurance that good moments were among the bad, and he could find his calm. That was my impression.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
42 pages, 2020

by Mélanie Watt

Simple-seeming story about what happens to a wandering housefly when it gets sucked into a vacuum cleaner. I didn’t realize until I was well into the middle of this book that it’s about the stages of grief- in this case, precipitated by an overwhelming life-changing event. I thought it was very well-presented, without the metaphors being overly done. Subtle enough that a child might just enjoy the story for its own face value, not realizing what they’re learning about handling emotions. The packaging on different items in the background, makes it clear what it’s all about- and I thought that was very cleverly done. I was chuckling at their initial presentation with slightly sarcastic labeling details (see the pics) and then nodding sagely at the later iterations.

Detail: “Contains: poisonous chemicals too difficult to spell.” / “Contains: An ounce of doubt and gallons of disbelief”


“Ingredients: Ham, carrots, peas, and nasty-tasting hydrogenated potatoes” / “Ingredients: a spoonful of bitterness, a scoop of bad temper and a pinch of revenge”


“Sort of feels like cotton.    100% Recycled Paper” / “No regrets.    100% Real Feelings”


Love the textured quality of the illustrations, and how you see the fly rearrange and use all the elements around him in the vacuum bag during his entrapment. Differently in each picture spread. A lot of fun just to examine that. Have to look for more by this author/illustrator. She wrote the Scaredy Squirrel books, which I’ve known about but never read actually myself.

Also, there’s a side narrative of sorts, what the family dog does when the bug is in the vacuum. He lost something too, and responds accordingly. I thought that was a nice extra touch.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
96 pages, 2015


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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