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Adèle & Simon
Format: HardcoverChange
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
I'm a bit odd. There is nothing I like more in the entire world than for a picture book to make me feel stupid. I live for the feeling. And, as it happens, it doesn't occur as often as I should like it to. Enter in Barbara McClintock. The unofficial successor to Kate Greenway, Ms. McClintock's books are touch and go affairs. One moment she's penning the unaccountably beautiful, "Dahlia". Next minute she's scandalizing Beatrix Potter puritans everywhere with her re-illustration of, "A Tale of Two Bad Mice". I always want to count on Ms. McClintock, but I never know how a book is going to come off until I have it sitting smack dab in front of me. The fact that, "Adele and Simon" not only fell into the Good McClintock bin but went above and beyond the call of duty by being smart, beautiful, ludicrously well-detailed, and other terms of high praise... well it's enough to make a librarian like myself weep with joy. For pure unvarnished and unapologetic Francophilia alongside references to art, culture, and a smattering of "Where's Waldo", McClintok's newest is an enjoyable book that deserves as much love as I can heap upon it.

At the turn of the twentieth century a girl named Adele picks up her little brother, Simon, from school. Simon's a pleasant kid, but he has an odd tendency to lose his things. Right from the start Adele says to him, "Simon, please try not to lose anything today". Simon replies honestly but with more than a hint of foreshadowing, "I'll try". Together, the two walk about Paris and each place they go Simon loses something new. At first it's just small things. The cat picture he made in school goes missing during a street market. His scarf goes awry in the natural history museum. As the kids continue, however, Simon's losses get bigger. His crayons are somewhere in the Louvre. His knapsack turns up missing in The Maison Cador. His sweater in The Cour de Rohan. By the time the two kids get home Simon just has the clothes on his back. However, there is soon a knock on the door and a long line of people are standing there with ALL of Simon's lost things! And that evening a happy sleepy Simon asks if Adele will pick him up again from school. She will. She always does.

The actual tone of the book was definitely a familiar one. I think we've all read books in which an older impatient female sibling must look after a younger carefree male one. The best example of this might well be the Max and Ruby books by Rosemary Wells. As a person can see by the cover of this book, though, it's clear who the uptight child is and which one has the jolly devil-may-care attitude. McClintock's story is a light-hearted lovely look at the ways siblings love and annoy one another. The fact that her pictures have the tendency to pop the average reader's eyes out of their sockets is just a bonus, really.

By the way, are you going to Paris anytime soon? Taking the kids? Want them to show some mild interest in where you're headed? Take this book. I'm serious. Look at the freakin' endpapers, people! What you'll find there is a map of Paris. Then, skillfully placed over the map, are a series of blue lines and numbers indicating where Simon lost his various accoutrements. Aside from the fact that these two kids apparently make record breaking time on just their two l'il feet, this map may do wonders for a family outing abroad. Best of all, it's accurate to the time period, having come from a 1907 edition of, "Paris and Environs" by Karl Baedeker.

Now remember what I said earlier about enjoying the sensation of feeling stupid in the face of picture book greatness? Well let's just flip to the back of this book to show you what I mean. The last two pages of, "Adele and Simon" show all areas where Adele and Simon lost items. By a thumbnail of each scene, McClintock has supplied copious information. Information, mind you, that refers not only to what is being shown but also the small references and historical figures the artist has managed to sneak into her pictures. For example, in the scene that takes place in The Musee du Louvre, the people who try to help Simon find his crayons include (deep breath now), "Edouard Vuillard, Odilon Redon, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt". Sometimes McClintok will mention her references, and sometimes she won't. I felt as pleased as punch to discover that in The Jardin des Plantes you can see Ludwig Bemelmans's famous little girls walking in two straight lines. Who can say how many other in-jokes, references, and asides might be lurking in these wonderfully detailed illustrations? Not I.

Kids reading this book will delight in finding each of Simon's lost belongings from picture to picture. If the "I Spy" books have taught us anything, it's that even the most ADD-prone of children will sit for long swaths of time when they know there's a treasure to be located somewhere on a printed page. The fact that this book could charm even the grumpiest of preschoolers is reason enough for purchasing it. A beautiful title and a must-read book. McClintock at her amazing astounding best.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2006
Imagine letting your kids wander city streets alone for a few hours after school. No cell phones, no nannies, no idea where they are or what they're up to.

Not in a hundred years, right?

Yup.

McClintock takes us back a full century to Paris at its fullest glory, when the Impressionists were still alive and the colorful streets teemed with activity (instead of traffic) and cheerful kids could meander for hours. How different from our own anxious, overscheduled age!

Big sister Adele picks up a smiley Simon after school, who's schlepping a full rucksack and the usual cold-weather garb. Since this is pre-Ritalin, he's allowed to be what we once called a typical boy: irrepressible, funny, smart and a complete ruffian. He's off in a dozen directions at once, losing a scarf here or crayons there as he drags his sister through a leafy, sepia-drenched Paris and one gorgeous full-bleed spread after another.

We're launched on a "Where's Waldo"-style hunt for all those missing items, which get stuck in trees or a baby carriage or who knows where. I was quite pleased with myself for finding most of them, even as I empathized with Adele's mounting exasperation.

McClintock used pen and ink to recreate this wondrous city at its most vital, then filled it in with watercolors. Each spread looks like a period print or vintage postcard, even down to the choice in typeface. Hers is an idealized fin de siecle Paris, where parades just happen by and acrobats pop up and Edgar Degas is available to hunt for those missing crayons (end notes fill in some must-know facts).

I've made three trips to Paris and can tell you the Jardins du Luxembourg hasn't changed a bit, and the Boulevard St. Germaine looks just so, and the Louvre and Notre Dame and the bistros and courtyards must absolutely be exactly like this. Only I never noticed two schoolchildren taking the long way home, wending their way through the crowds, misadventures in full swing.

Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2006
I bought this book 2 weeks ago and my 3 year old son asks me to read it everyday ( sometimes 2 and 3 times).

Hidden in the pages of this simple story of Adele and her little brother misplacing brother Simon, is a submersive journey back in time to Paris in the turn of the century. Hidden historical jems lie in the beautifully intricate illustrations Barbara McClintock composes. I truly discover something new each time I open the book and explore the pages and inevitably so does my son. Sometime we don't even read the story - we just go from scene to scene looking for Monkeys or Madeline or sampling an eclair. What a joy!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2007
My children ages 5 and 6 adored this book. The illustrations are beautiful, the story is charming, and the book is very engaging. My boys loved searching each page for the items Simon kept losing throughout the story. Clever. Lovely. Quality book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2007
My 4 year old Daughter absolutely loves this book. She relates, since she has a little brother like the character Adele. The illustrations are georgeous. This is definetely a favorite for mother and daughter :)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2007
Initially my 4 1/2 year old son didn't seem interested in this book, however once I read it to him, it became a favorite. He loves looking for the lost items in the beautifully drawn pictures.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2007
Look through a window of imagination to a world of excitement! Adele and Simon takes you to Paris, around the park, through the market, and all the way home! Help Adele find crayons, scarves, hats, and notebooks. The illustrations are amazing and make you feel like you are there! I highly recommend this book and think it is wonderful!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2007
This book is outstanding!!! The story line is so cute and funny. The illustrations are fantastic, they are all so detailed and colorful! Poor little Simon loses all of his belongings and his sister gets fed up for looking for them. You should definetly read this book!!!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2007
This book is great. Read it to my granddaughter multiple times. I have been to Paris and was enthralled by it. I hope she will want to go some day.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2007
What a wonderful children's book for kids ages 4-8. The illustrations were sophisticated and a joy to study. And the text worked well with the artwork. I particularly enjoyed studying the pictures to see where Simon (the little boy) had dropped his belongings. Furthermore, the illustrations explanations at the very end of the book made the pictures more meaningful.

The story takes place in Paris, France in the early 1900s. The book is true to the time period and the setting. The characters are fun to learn about, and for me the book was a page-turner. There were 14 "scenes" to this book.

I would have liked the book better if Simon and his sister had stopped to find what he had lost. And I thought the scene at the end with the line of people outside Simon's home was a bit unrealistic. There was no need for such a contrived resolution. 5 stars!
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