Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Saving For A Dream

Most of us know what it's like to want something but be woefully short on funds.  Many needs claim the lion's share of our budgets before wants are even addressed.  For some a prioritized wish list helps us to tuck away monies.  Years may come and go before we have enough saved.

Imagine if you are a child who sees something you would love to have; not a newer or bigger one, just one at all.  You have no income like an adult. Maybe you don't even have an allowance.  In The Girl and The Bicycle (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division), a wordless gem, imagined and illustrated by Mark Pett, a girl spots something which becomes her heart's desire.

It's a busy city street bustling with shoppers, amblers and dog walkers.  A girl and her brother are moving with the flow until she notices a green bicycle in the toy store window.  She jumps with joy dashing for home, dragging him along, his ice cream cone forgotten in a puddle on the sidewalk.

At home a search for lost and forgotten coins is made.  Roadside sales yield a little bit more money but she is still lacking the needed amount.  Outside seeing her brother playing in piles of leaves, she gets another idea.  Rake in hand, she goes door to door in her neighborhood.  Finally one woman accepts her offer of help.

Bags are filled with leaves.  As seasons change from winter to spring to summer, we see the girl providing an extra hand for the same woman with inside and outside chores.  Surely her savings are growing.  Strolling with the woman's dog one day she passes the store with the bike still in the window.

That happy day arrives when the contents of her piggy bank, spread on the table, are exactly what she needs.  Running from the house carrying her purse, her brother tagging along, she heads into town.  Not one, not two, not three but four surprises befall the three characters.  All is right in this little corner of the world as the balance between giving and getting is precisely where it needs to be.

Happily removing the dust jacket from the book case it seems as if Mark Pett is giving us three very distinct, important representations from the book; the front jacket when the girl first sees the bicycle, the back jacket when she and her brother are excitedly leaving their home and the front book case showing the bicycle lying on its side.  A tiny rendering of the bike patterned in rows covers the opening and closing endpapers in two hues of green.  A similar color range as the companion book, The Boy and the Airplane, the soft, soothing shades of gray, brown, green and a single pop of rusty red are used in his watercolor and pencil illustrations.

Subtle shifts in the background tones signify changes in time and emotion.  Pett alternates his picture (all are edge to edge with no framing) from two pages to single page to vertical shared half pages.  His layout and design are simply inviting; asking you to stop and notice every small nuance in his pictures.

Tiny humorous details bring a classic realism to the visuals; the cat peeking about in the girl's home, her brother's curiosity and delight in the simple things, the woman's dog barking at the vacuum cleaner and squirrel and the grin on the piggy bank.  For the most part expressions on the characters are portrayed through their eyes; rarely do we see mouths unless they are smiling.  Pett has a gift for depicting what his characters are feeling at any given moment with body posture.  Careful readers will notice one particular person in the opening illustration and the toy the girl's brother is carrying in the final scenes.

One of my favorite illustrations (I adore many of them.) is of the woman and the girl cleaning the garage.  The dog is present sniffing, drawing our attention to his focus.  The woman is holding an object which will certainly cause readers to exclaim "Isn't that..?"  Pett has cleverly included items which are sure to generate discussion and questions.

I have read The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett over and over and over since I purchased it this afternoon.  I could hardly wait to share it with my blog readers.   The ties between generations, the friendships which can be formed between the young and old, are utterly heartwarming.  Readers of all ages will be moved by the eloquence of this story.

For inside views of illustrations visit the publisher's website. Please follow the link embedded in Mark Pett's name to access his official website.  UPDATE Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has more artwork for you to enjoy. (5/8/2014)

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