I blog almost exclusively about picture books and see a whole heapin’ ton of them yearly, but every now and then I’m reminded that I don’t nearly see as much as I think I do. Sometimes I’ll fall in love with a new book and then realize it’s one of many titles in a longstanding series, one I’ve yet to even see.
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Such is the case with Cynthia Rylant’s Brownie & Pearl Go for a Spin (released in February), illustrated by Brian Biggs. This, as I understand it, is the seventh Brownie & Pearl book in the series, which comes by way of Beach Lane Books. Six books so far, I say. Somehow the series altogether flew under my radar.
And I really like what I see, even if I’m late to the game. If you’re new to the series, by chance, I can’t recommend it enough for the wee readers of your life. I use “wee” purposely: This is a series that can work for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers and kindergartners just learning to read. Yep, all of the above.
Brownie is a little girl, and Pearl is her cat. I can only assume in previous titles they’re up to other grand adventures (I’m going to have to get my hands on the earlier ones), but in this one they’re zooming around in Brownie’s car. Yes, delightfully enough, Brownie has a stylin’ little pink convertible, and it has a seat just for Pearl. “Look who’s coming! It’s Brownie and Pearl.” This is from the very first spread in which we see them tearin’ down a tiny sidewalk, Pearl peering out of the passenger seat while Brownie puts the pedal to the metal. That right there is enough to make young readers laugh, and it only gets better.
Together, the duo gets the mail, delivers the mail, and then drives back home—all filled with little moments of spot-on humor. These are geared for the youngest of readers, so the climactic Sturm und Drang here is simply that Pearl, when they arrive home, refuses to get out of the car. This is pretty funny for children, too: Pearl does as she likes, kicks back with a smile on her face, and befuddles Brownie. What toddler isn’t going to relate to—and get a huge kick out of—Pearl’s moment of fight-the-system rebellion there? That is, until Brownie has a clever idea for getting Pearl out of the car. All ends well.
Rylant writes in short, simple sentences, all laid out in a large font perfect for beginning readers, and Biggs’ colorful spreads, digitally rendered with thick outlines and simple shapes are eye-catching and engaging. Everything’s big and everything’s up close. In this child-centered world—we only see the adults from the waist down—the small ones reign supreme.
A pure delight for young readers, with, as the Internet tells me, a new title coming in August. At least now I'm in the know.
Julie Danielson (Jules) has, in her own words, conducted approximately eleventy billion interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog focused primarily on illustration and picture books.