Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review: The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett (2014)

A young girl spies the perfect bicycle in a shop window, then works hard for months to earn the money for it, only to be surprised by the generosity of a kind neighbor.
Because there are no words, the illustrations must carry this story entirely on their own. They do so flawlessly. There is so much personality in the movements of the little girl and the younger brother who tags along with her through much of the book that no words are necessary to know them well. The same is true of the neighbor for whom the little girl works. We learn many things about her - including the fact that she is lonely - from watching her interact with the girl and from the details of her home (such as a photo of a man who must be her husband sitting in the box in her garage.) The sincerity of this story would never come across half as well if the author had tried to put it into words. The fact that the bicycle is the only part of the book that appears in color (aside from a brief appearance by the red airplane from the author's other wordless book) is also a nice touch.

Adults who have trouble with more complicated and surreal wordless books (like those by David Wiesner, for example) might find this one easier to understand and therefore easier to share with kids. The story is completely linear, and the setting is very familiar. A great read-alike might be The Boys by Jeff Newman, another wordless book which also celebrates inter-generational friendships. Also consider pairing it with other picture books about bicycles, including Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka and Duck on a Bike by David Shannon.

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