A girl spies a gleaming bike in a shop window and decides to earn enough money doing yardwork to buy it.
This wordless, retro book (the girl’s molded curls, turtleneck, plaid skirt and Mary Janes definitely come from another era) champions both grit and kindness, but it seems mighty bleak at times. Moody cement-gray papers, nearly colorless illustrations and a cast of cold adults make the girl’s determination and her working relationship with one kind neighbor all the more moving. Much of Pett’s engrossing narrative is relayed through characters’ limbs, eyes and brows, as many times they simply don’t have mouths. The blank effect of a face without a smile, smirk or frown carries unexpected weight, delivering a sense that the character struggles to withhold or manage emotions. And talk about emotions! After working for the same spectacled lady for months earning money raking, planting and cleaning, the girl rushes to the store only to find her bike already sold. Many young readers may reel just imagining such staggering disappointment and be further boggled by her angelic decision to purchase a tricycle for her small brother instead. Never fear, a Capra-esque ending awaits.
Like an old black-and-white movie, this companion to The Boy and the Airplane (2013) will remain charming and relevant—the old story about what you get when you give never really gets old. (Picture book. 4-6)