Wednesday, September 1, 2010

REVIEW: Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum

How did it become September?  I don't understand.  I thought I was going to read tens upon tens of books this summer.  And I tried....

But I don't know quite where the time has gone.

I do know that while I was off being distracted or losing time or something, I did manage to see this book in an email from my library.

It's been way too long since I got off my bum-bum to write a picturebook review.  This particular title interested me enough to break my stupor.

Let me just say, I absolutely LOVE picturebook biographies and histories.  They tend to involve wonderful and interesting topics that answer questions only kids would think to ask.  I love how many of them still incorporate a story, while providing information, while also drawing the reader in.

These books are how I learn stuff about stuff.

And clearly there is more stuff I need to know...about stuff.

Pop!: The Invention of Bubble GumMcCarthy, M.  (2010).  Pop!  The Invention of Bubble Gum.  New York:  Paula Wiseman.

Appetizer:  How exactly was bubble gum invented?  Pop! tells the story of Walter Diemer, who devoted himself to developing bubble gum in the candy factory where he worked as an accountant.  It took many attempts for Walter to finally get the formula right, to finally give the world bubble gum.

I was entertained by this book on several counts:  1.  It was a book about bubble gum.  2.  The book does briefly allude to the history of regular chewing gum.  3.  I was kind of reminded of a historical Willy Wonka.  And that made me want to pair the book as a read aloud with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  It could work, my friends, it could work.  4.  The story emphasizes curiosity, perseverance and love of science.  All excellent characteristics that I like to see in me picture stories.

Having said that though, I didn't think the book was perfect.  A sentence here or there felt clunky.  While I understood that Walter's recipe was top secret (and still is) I wanted a few hints of which ingredients were involved in making bubble gum.  I also hoped that the end pages would include a simple recipe that students could try. (But on that note, what a book will not provide, google will.)

The illustrations really helped to maintain the book's sense of whimsy.  They kind of provide a spoon full of sugar to help the knowledge be absorbed.  But in a few ways, I did wish they were a little more old-school information book-y.  First off, there is no portrait of Walter Diemer, not even in the fun facts last page.  I wanted a photo!  I also felt like the illustrations could have filled in some more historical details.  That'd give students a reason to share at the pages longer.

I also wanted to hear more about how Walter and the other first bubble gum chewers figured out how to blow bubbles.  When I was a kid, it took me forever to finally manage to blow a bubble, and that was with knowledgeable bubble-makers giving me advice.  I think I finally figured out how when I was in the seventh grade.  I have no idea why it took me so long.  Maybe I'm a little slow.  I still can't tie a cherry stem in a knot or unwrap a Starburst candy with my tongue (unless I cheat a little).

...Not that I've tried recently.

Just saying.

Dinner Conversation:

"On a small street in Philadelphia in the 1920s, there was a factory owned by the Fleer family...Inside the factory, lots of gum and candy were made...."

"Ho hum.  Gum wasn't that exciting.  But what if gum chewers could blow bubbles?  Now that would be something--a world full of bubble gum blowers!"

"But Walter didn't give up.  Back to work he went!  After many more months of adding this and that...(top secret ingredients he would never share!) Walter found what he was looking for."

Tasty Rating:  !!!

I've actually wrote a couple of picturebook biographies and histories while I was still working on my MFA.  Nothing came of them, but I absolutely loved writing them.
They are such a challenge.  You do all this research and you have to reduce it all to a manageable 32 pages that can be paired with dynamic illustrations and can incorporate a couple of quotes.

Whenever a random question about the world enters my head, I inevitably hope that there is a picturebook out there to answer it.  Right now, I'm most curious about toilet paper.  When did we invent it?  Anyone know?  I'm not certain there's a book about that yet.  I'm a little frightened of what the illustrations would be.  Although I have come across one about the history of underwear.

Are there any random questions you have about the world that you would like answered in picturebook world.

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