I’ve never read a children’s book to my son. So it came as somewhat of a shock when I was offered the opportunity to review Bubblegum Princess. In fact, my son and I are currently in the midst of reading a book entitled JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass. I know, I know, it is probably over his head in both content and subject matter, but it is a fantastic book with a well-researched and defensible thesis and I just couldn’t resist. As a parent, I’m still learning so leave me alone!
As a historian by trade, I like reading and I love criticizing. Therefore, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to read and review my first ever children’s book, Bubblegum Princess. Written by Julie Gribble and illustrated by Lori Hanson, this product of NY Media Works came to me unexpectedly.
Purely taken as a story, I found it to be pretentious yet substantive. Essentially, the story follows a girl who likes to blow bubbles with bubblegum but because her snobbish parents view her penchant for bubble blowing as lowbrow, she is prohibited from blowing bubble gum when invited to a gathering at the Queen’s palace. The story culminates with bubblegum ultimately sparking a fond romance between Katy and the Prince but contains more meaningful undertones.
The crux of this book centers on the relationship between Katy and her parents as well as the relationship between her parents and their own socioeconomic status. What the reader may not initially notice is this line, where the author alludes to Katy’s “secret stash” of bubblegum after her parents prohibited her gum chewing: While en route to visit the Queen’s palace, Katy decided, “and just to be safe, […] gave her secret stash of gum to her mum.”
What does this say about Katy? That she’s a deceitful and duplicitous addict? What about her parents? How are they enabling this behavior? They care more about being accepted into highbrow society then they do about addressing their daughter’s severe addiction to bubblegum bubbles? Or they refuse to accept her for who she is…a bubblegum bubble blower? These implicit questions get answered through the lens of Katy’s vice.
What Gribble seeks to convey is not addiction and deceit, but imperfection. Katy’s parents impart to her the false notion that she cannot be accepted into highbrow society or get a man if she maintains her lowbrow, bubble blowing behaviors. This is her imperfection. In her parents’ eyes, it signifies a social hurdle. Katy’s parents represent a coveting social underbelly striving for a perceived perfection that exists only in those viewing a desirable culture from its exterior. Their impure motives are evidenced time and again throughout the book.
This conflict is reconciled through the eventual realization that the Prince is also a bubble blower. It is through this revelation that Katy’s elders gain acceptance of her vice, being that it has now paved the way for potential upward mobility.
This book does not pander to kids in any way. It challenges them. In addition to the social commentary, it is loaded with language and vocabulary that will surely soar over the heads of children everywhere. Which of course is what I like most about it!
I’ve always believed in treating my baby like a real person. I try to avoid baby talk as best I can and use complete, structured sentences with proper grammar and an extensive lexicon. It is in this vein that Bubblegum Princess fits right into my wheelhouse as suitable reading material for a child. While several reviews of the book minimize the vernacular of the text, I found it refreshing to read a children’s book that did not dumb down the content by oversimplifying the vocabulary.
In addition to the extensive word choice, the vivid and colorful imagery is sure to keep children engaged, even if they are uninterested with the content. The illustrations alone carry the book throughout and make it worth reading.
Perhaps most obvious is the allegorical references to the Royal Family and, of course, Prince George, the royal baby. To her credit, the author keeps this content strictly allegorical which makes it tolerable. However, it is explicitly stated that this is a book about Prince William and Kate. Because of that, it is a divisive book that could turn readers away…those who have no interest in the Royal Family or have simply heard enough. In that respect, it is similar to so many other cultural phenomena that has or at some point, had divided the public. You know, like the Twilight Saga, 50 Shades of Grey, The Republican Party, box office smash Titanic, or Dennis Rodman, albeit on a much, much smaller and less significant scale. Unfortunately, the overt allegory could eliminate a demographic of potential readers who would surely regret missing out on the opportunity to convey complex social constructs in an approachable way to children.
But don’t believe my warped opinions. Below you will see some links to other reviewers.
Bubblegum Princess can be purchased for $16.99 on Amazon.