Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock—Reviewed by Rebecca Dunn
My dark horse of a read this year was Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, illustrated by Barbara McClintock. A beautiful, poetic middle grade novel about a family and a very special, seasonal tradition they practice each winter.
But this post isn’t about Twelve Kinds of Ice…
(Which your really, really must read!)
When I was reading Twelve Kinds of Ice, I was taken not only by the eloquent prose of Ellen Bryan Obed, but also by the lovely, retro-like illustrations of Barbara McClintock. I decided to do a little research and, oh, the gems I found!
Adele & Simon is a picture book about one afternoon in the life of resident two siblings in Paris during the turn of the century. In the very beginning, Adele picks her littler brother up from school and urges him to do his best of keep watch of his things (a hat and gloves, scarf, sweater, coat, knapsack, books and crayons, and a drawing of a cat he’d made that morning.), which he subsequently happens to lose, one by one, as the story progresses. Each article Simon loses takes the reader on a tour of one of the most well known, historic, and beloved cities of the world. With each turn of the page the reader also is given the opportunity to find Simon’s missing items “Where’s Waldo” style, but when you look deeper, within each illustration is an art, literary, or historic reference, so that in looking for Simon’s lost articles, children find so much more.
The book doesn’t end with the story of Simon’s losing (and eventual retrieval) of lost items. The back of the book is equipped with a key to explain the places Adele and Simon frequented and the people or references depicted, so the adventure continues in a non-fiction approach.
In the follow-up to Adele & Simon, Adele and Simon voyage to America to visit their Aunt Cecile in the United States of America, in Adele & Simon in America. It is written in the exact same style as the first book, but with one major difference; Adele & Simon in America doesn’t concentrate only on one specific city, but tours twelve cities in the United States of America. It’s also chock-full of historic figure references including Edith Warton, Robert McCloskey, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, and many more.
Why do I love these books? Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for this time period or for old-fashioned pen and ink illustration technique? Or maybe it’s that these books truly are one-of-a-kind gems. For whatever reason, I found we could learn so much from forgetful Simon and his sister, Adele. If the time is taken to wander and enjoy the places we go, whether it be down the street or in gay ol’ Paris, and not be so concerned about keeping watch of our belongings or who is texting or what time it is, we might find ourselves experiencing so much more of the beauty and history in our surroundings.
The stories of Adele and Simon teach us that sometimes we need to lose a thing or two to find unexpected details. On Barbara McClintock’s blog she mentions that Adele & Simon in China, the latest in the series, is on hold for the time being. Fingers-crossed not too long!
I just love when one good book leads you to the next, don’t you?
Rebecca Dunn is a full-time mom and part-time youth services librarian assistant at the Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas. When she isn’t chasing her 2-year old, thinking up library programs and storytimes, goofing off on Pinterest, or reading, she enjoys spending time at her blog home, Sturdy For Common Things [http://www.sturdyforcommonthings.com/]. You can also follow her on twitter @rebeccazdunn.
Twelve Kinds of Ice illustration:
Adele & Simon illustration: