Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Review of Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy and Polly Dunbar

New Zealander Margaret Mahy is one of those rare authors who writes cross-genre with incredible skill: picture books, humorous chapter books, and dark, sophisticated books for teens. Before there was ever such a character as Edward Cullen, I fell in love with the troubled witch boy in her classic supernatural tale, Changeover. But today I’m reviewing something at the other end of the spectrum, Mahy’s latest giddy picture book, Bubble Trouble.

The story is fairly simple: a little girl named Mabel is blowing bubbles and one bubble lifts her baby brother into the sky, where he floats along, chased by a growing crew of would-be rescuers as colorful as that chain of goose-grabbing people in the old fairy tale about making a sad princess laugh. As her brother is faced with increasing peril late in the story, Mabel manages to save the day.

This is all very nice, but what it doesn’t tell you is just how amazing the rhymes are. We’re talking page after page of near-tongue twisters. The internal rhymes in particular are works of genius. If Bruce Degen’s Jamberry went to Oxford University, I’m thinking it would graduate as Bubble Trouble.

In fact, enough of the vocabulary words in this book are rather elevated that some people might be a tad intimidated by them:

In her garden, Chrysta Gribble had begun to cry and cavil at her lazy brother, Greville, reading novels in his bed. But she bellowed, “Gracious, Greville!” and she groveled in the gravel when the baby in the bubble bibble-bobbled overhead.

I’m here to tell you that this book is worth it—your child won’t need to understand every word to follow the story, and the rollicking sounds of the words will be a pleasure to adult readers and lap listeners alike.

For their part, Polly Dunbar’s lively illustrations contribute great good humor to the narration. Watch for the innovative use of a Scrabble board in both the art and the story telling, for example. I also really liked Dunbar’s work on Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters’s terrific poetry collection, Here’s a Little Poem. She’s one of those British illustrators we need to import more often.

If you want an upbeat read as well as a workout for your tongue, get your hands on Margaret Mahy’s Bubble Trouble and share it with the nearest small human!

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I recently reviewed another great Mahy picture book - A Lion in the Meadow - on our site. It was sent to us by our NZ inlaws and our 17 month adores it. I didn't realize Mahy was so prolific; thanks for the recommendation!
Lynn at Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile