CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 19. . . .January 18, 2013
Bubblegum Delicious, first released in 2000, features some of Dennis Lee’s wittiest poetry. Each poem furthers the overarching story of a young, thrill-seeking boy whose adventures lead him from first wakening all the way to a reluctant bedtime. Along the way, the reader encounters vivid descriptions of sandwich-making with “goober and guck”, a game of pick-up with an elephant, and a visit to a graveyard (cleverly entitled “Dead Men in Edmonton”). Accompanied by his faithful dog, the boy meets an impressive variety of sentient animals, fantastical creatures, and more abstract beings, such as a cloud-like Wind. Playful metre and rhyme, with references to classic nursery rhymes (“hickory, dock”) make for toe-tapping youngsters. Some poems give a lighthearted treatment to more serious topics, reminiscent of classic rhymes - think “Ashes! Ashes! / We All Fall Down” and other lines when reading Lee’s “And three for a coffin when you fall down dead”). But these poems are not all Mother Goose; some are to-the-point and snappy (“I rock rock rock /And I just don’t care”) and others contain more commonplace elements from modern living (“I ordered a TV-vee-vee / To see what I could see-see-see”). Poetry is scattered throughout the book in unexpected places, such as the Cataloguing-in-Publication page, and in interesting placements on the page, even hidden within illustrations.
McPhail’s illustrations are executed in watercolour and are present on all pages. The realism and intricate detailing intensify the pleasure of each page, often adding other elements and characters that are not mentioned in the poems. For instance, a poem about flying around a microwave features two insect-like aliens that are not referred to in the text. The ingenuity in the illustrations and text of Bubblegum Delicious should propel it to first place on any purchaser’s list.
Roxy Garstad is a librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.
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