Wordless Wednesday: The Girl And The Bicycle & Interview With Mark Pett

It’s Wordless Wednesday once again! Somehow I managed to sit on this awesome interview for months now! I’m not exactly sure what happened. I contacted Mark Pett and he readily agreed to do the interview, and then I never got it up. So sorry about that Mark! It wasn’t lack of interest in your answers, I promise. Let’s just blame it on life and the amount of reviews and books that I get buried under weekly.

So join me this late Wednesday evening for a beautiful story about a girl, a wished for bicycle, persistence, and true generosity. Here is The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett, 2014. And stay tuned for a Q&A with him too!

If you aren’t familiar with Pett’s first wordless picture book, The Boy and the Airplane from 2013, I highly recommend checking it out. It is stunningly beautiful, and a brilliant story.

This next wordless book uses a similar look and feel as his first, but this time highlights a little girl and her desire for a bicycle.

GirlBicycle 2

The plot is simple: the little girl spies a beautiful green bike in a store window. She races home to check her piggy bank, but she doesn’t have enough money. Cue the entrepreneurial genius as she works impressively hard looking for cash and selling things from lemonade to her own possessions.

GirlBicycle 3

When she still doesn’t have enough money, she goes door to door hoping to do yard work for her neighbors. No one is interested, until one sweet older lady. The girl is an excellent helper, working through the seasons and becoming a little companion to the lady.

Finally, as the weather warms, she has enough money! She again races to the store only to discover the bicycle has already been purchased. She is devastated, but her work does not go unrewarded in a heartwarming ending which is brilliantly paced.

GirlBicycle 4

One of my very favorite things about this book is the color palette and paper stock. I love the gray paper giving a warm, yet neutral backdrop and allowing Pett to use the limited color palette even more powerfully with the addition of white in the illustrations.

You can also tell how much experience Pett has as a storyteller. His pacing is excellent and I love his ability to fill the page with just enough and almost too little.

GirlBicycle 6

But enough about my thoughts, let’s hear from the creator himself. Thanks to Mark Pett for squeezing some time in to answer my questions. And again, I apologize for waiting so long to put them out! They are worth the read and so enjoyable. Here we go:

picture from markpett.com

Question: What motivated you to create a wordless picture book as opposed to a traditional text + illustration book?

Mark Pett: I had a syndicated comic strip for many years. At one point, A friend of mine, Mark Tatulli, created a new comic strip called Lio that was entirely wordless. I couldn’t imagine how a person could write a wordless comic strip and I asked him about it. He said, try writing without words for a week. It will change the way you write. I tried it and he was right. After that, I often wrote first with no words and then added words as needed. When I wrote The Boy and the Airplane and The Girl and the Bicycle, I wrote them first with pictures. When I went to add words, I discovered that they didn’t need any!

Q: Was there ever text or narration in your head for The Girl and the Bicycle or did it always perform silently?

MP: I wrote it largely with emotions. I focused on how the girl was feeling on each page of the book and tried to show it in her expressions. I was open to adding words, if I thought the story needed it. In the end, though, I decided it didn’t!

Q: Is there a specific storyline and conclusion to The Girl and the Bicycle that you hope the reader gets or is it a bit open-ended in your opinion?

MP: I wrote the story as I see it, but, once I put a book out into the world, it is no longer mine. At that point, it is up to each reader to form their own relationship with the story and take from it what they will!

Q: Was it a more challenging experience to create a wordless book than text books or is every book different, period?

MP: Oh, every book is definitely different. Wordless books, however, offer their own challenges. For one thing, they require champions. They are quiet books, by definition. Many adults are intimidated by wordless books because they don’t know how to read them with their children. I think editors, too, don’t quite know what to do with them, because they are often wordsmiths.

Q: I love the paper choice for The Girl and the Bicycle (and The Boy and the Airplane too!). Was the paper chosen just as a unique illustration medium or is there a deeper reasoning associated with the storyline?

MP: Thank you! I wanted the books to have a timeless feel to them. I wanted, when you picked them up, to be unsure whether these are current books or old books. I chose the paper partly for those reasons.

Q: Is there a soundtrack that you hear for The Girl and the Bicycle?

MP: Good question! Perhaps the song “Sara” by The Good Ones.

Q: Do you consider wordless picture books a better solitary experience or more exciting as a read-aloud?

MP: I love them as a read-aloud. Wordless books are unique, in that pre-readers can read them just as well as a grown-up can!

Q: Have you ever shared The Girl and the Bicycle in a storytime? Do you have tips for how it or any other wordless picture books could be read aloud?

MP: I think wordless books are wonderful for story time. I have often read mine and it’s simply a process of asking lots of questions. What’s happening on this page? What’s the girl feeling now? What do you think will happen next? They are highly interactive and the responses you get can be really entertaining!

Q: Do you have any favorite wordless picture books?

MP: I love Wave by Suzy Lee. Also The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. And I’m a fan of David Wiesner’s wordless books.

Q: And lastly, because you never really read a picture book alone and I adore brainstorming book groupings, do you have any books that you consider to pair well with The Girl and the Bicycle, wordless or not?

MP: Well, of course, it goes with The Boy and the Airplane. The books are connected in a deep way and a careful reader will find many clues to the connection in The Girl and the Bicycle. I also think it would go well with other stories about perseverance, like Henry’s Freedom Box or Kitten’s Full Moon.

Thanks again to Mark Pett for joining the wordless book discussion here. And for giving us such thoughtful and lovely books!











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