Friday, February 9th, 2007
Book Review: Becka and the Big Bubble
Becka and the Big Bubble is a growing series of rhyming picture books about a girl who floats on magic soap bubbles. The stories capture the whimsy of a girl who fearlessly explores the world around her.
In her first book, All Around Town, Becka is in a neighborhood park when she blows a gigantic bubble and hops on top. She floats past a bakery and a chocolate store, above cheering friends, and then rises so high she can’t see the town below. When her bubble pops, she remains happy, blowing another one and softly landing in her dad’s arms. Much of the storyline revolves around her, and the people she meets, marveling at her airborne experience.
In her second book, Becka goes to the North Pole, she is now a seasoned globetrotter, hopping a north-bound bubble on the first page. She admires polar bears while passing Greenland, then a red-nosed reindeer buzzes her and inadvertently pops her bubble. Landing in soft snow, a talking snowman leads her to Santa’s workshop. She meets Santa and Mrs. Claus and marvels at elves hard at work. When Santa says it’s time to go home, the two of them blow a bubble together and she flies home into her parents’ arms.
These are the first two of a planned series of books that will take Becka to San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, New York, Egypt, India, Mexico, Thailand and maybe further.
I enjoyed North Pole most for its variety of situations, stronger wordplay and illustrated richness of the scenes Becka experiences. Many of Becka’s Around Town observations occur in and above her neighborhood park and I found the drawings to be a little tame.
My 2.7-year-old daughter seemed especially enthralled with Around Town, releasing an audible gasp when Becka’s bubble burst, sending Becka tumbling. She got caught up in Becka’s excitement and the enthusiasm of Becka’s friends.
It’s tough to write an effective rhyming story, inevitably spurring reviewers to draw critical comparisons to the gold standard of Dr. Seuss.
But you know what? I’m not a fan of Dr. Seuss. We have seven of his books, but most of them have simple or even no cohesive plot (think: Dr. Seuss’s ABC, The Foot Book or Fox in Socks). They are silly, but unfulfilling. Meanwhile, Cat in the Hat has a plot so thick with details of the cat’s antics that my mind is numb when reading it to my daughter.
In comparison, *cough*, the Becka rhymes keep the plot moving from point A to point B. I might quibble with word choices in one or two places, but as a whole Becka need not even be a picture book. I bet it could be read to a 4- or 5-year-old as a bedtime story without pictures and the child’s imagination would do the rest.
The Becka books are being independently written and published by Gretchen Schomer Wendel, a stay-at-home mom who sent the books to Thingamababy for review, and Adam Schomer, an Owen Wilson impersonator. The books are illustrated by Damon Renthrope.
Oh, OK, Adam Schomer is an actor and improvisational comedian, but I noticed that Owen Wilson tidbit at the bottom of his acting resume. He also does Shrek.
I could see the Becka series being picked up by a major book publisher, turned into a cartoon and sullied with licensed merchandise such as bubble machines, plush Becka dolls, bed sheets, toothbrushes and all manner of madness. (I have no indication the authors want that, but you know how it goes.)
For the time being, I’ll relish Becka’s adventures being confined to these books. If Becka escapes these pages it will be through my daughter’s paintbrush, while playing dress-up with friends or as she blows bubbles on a summer day.