Adele & Simon in America

adele

Written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008

Adele and Simon had traveled all the way from Paris to New York City to visit their Aunt Cecile. But that was just the beginning of their journey. Aunt Cecile was taking them on a train trip around America. The night before their departure, Adele, Simon, and Aunt Cecile were busy packing. Adele spread Simon’s things out on his bed. There was a journal, a pencil box, a cowboy hat, a tin drinking cup, a canteen, a bandanna, a pair of binoculars, a map, a pocketknife, a jacket, a vest, and a pair of bright red suspenders.

…All of which will eventually get lost on their travels, but that’s half of the fun of this book — spotting each item after Adele, Simon, Aunt Ceclie (and the occasional cowpoke) have given up their search. This book is what I call a Birthday Book — a perfect gift for any 4+ kiddo, whether you’re aware of their interests or not. McClintock’s incredibly detailed pen-and-ink-and-watercolor illustrations are stunning (thank you, effusive book jacket copy!) and as Adele, Simon and their aunt travel the country, we get a fascinating glimpse of early twentieth-century life, from the “busiest corner in the world” (State and Madison streets in Chicago) to cowpokes gathering around a chuck wagon after a long day’s work. (McClintock’s added some sly details: look for Mark Twain boarding the steamboat, for instance, or Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock in the crowd at New York Harbor.) But what I love the most? Simon’s Zen attitude towards his lost belongings. While Adele comes close to a freak-out each time something goes missing, Simon calmly reflects on the bright side (“It is too warm to wear a jacket anyway”). And of course, everything is returned to him in the end.

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