When we went to the public library about ten days ago, we walked over to the children's new nonfiction display. I always like to see what is available - as you can tell, I'm reading a lot of children's nonfiction. On this trip, Frances (who is 3 1/2) went over and immediately selected Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum. I sort of groaned inside, because I'm not that interested in bubble gum, and I believed that once we got it home Frances would never look at it again. Besides, my girls aren't even allowed to chew gum! But we checked it out, and amazingly Frances proudly carried it over to her aunt's house that night. We finally sat down to read it the next day, and boy, was I impressed!
Pop! is a simplified version of the Fleet company's invention of bubble gum. It enfolds the specific story of Walter Diemer, an accountant turned inventor at Fleet, into this history. McCarthy's skill is in distilling this story (and the history of chewing gum) into one or two compelling, interesting sentences per page. Frances and Gloria (3 1/2 and 2) listened to the entire story twice, which especially speaks to its readability.
But just because it is short and basic doesn't mean that McCarthy skimps on research. In fact she artfully includes quotes from Diemer in the easy to read text. She also includes a strong bibliography in the back matter, along with a biography of Diemer and facts about gum. So her research is solid and will allow kids to use this book as a starting point for papers and projects. To me, this book is unusual in its strength for preschool-grade 2 nonfiction.
And the illustrations are just as appealing as the story McCarthy reports. The majority of the illustrations are double-page spread acrylic paintings, rich in their color. The figures in the paintings have super-round eyes, resembling perfectly blown bubbles. The people depicted are friendly and smiling, giving a great impression of determination and goodwill. Without making the paintings busy with a lot of background detail, McCarthy still conveys the historical time period through dress, automobiles and buildings (the majority of the book takes place in the 1920's).
Pop! is a truly successful nonfiction book. It makes the history of bubble gum interesting and the scientific process exciting. McCarthy has made a believer out of me. But my girls will not be chewing bubble gum any time soon!!
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum. Meghan McCarthy. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2010. Borrowed from Lewis & Clark Library