In our information-rich world, Mark Pett’s wordless picture book, The Girl and the Bicycle, is a refreshing change. This is Pett’s second such book, following The Boy and the Airplane. Somehow, by omitting words, the story seems more powerful; perhaps because instead of reading about events, we see and feel what’s happening.
Like The Boy and the Airplane, The Girl and the Bicycle is a straightforward tale, with fairly spare pencil and watercolor illustrations. Its sepia tones are muted throughout, with the only real splashes of color being the green bicycle of the title, and a little red toy airplane that appears on one page, a nod to Pett’s previous book and a clever tie-in between these two stories.
In this new drama, the young heroine walks past a toy store and spots a beautiful green bicycle in the window, which she desperately wants. The girl is accompanied by her younger brother, who appears to be about 2 or 3. She runs home to count her money, but quickly realizes she doesn’t have enough. After knocking on neighbor’s doors, she finds an older woman who needs her help and is willing to pay her. Seasons pass, with these two new friends raking, vacuuming, snow shoveling, planting and doing summer yard work.
Finally, the girl’s piggy bank is full, so she grabs her brother’s arm and races to the toy store, only to discover that the coveted bicycle is gone. What happens next is a poignant and satisfying resolution to this tale.
This is a lovely book to put into a young child’s hands. It is full of character, determination and emotion, and, like Pett’s earlier book, quietly touches on important themes of time passing and the lessons of growing up.