The premise of this picture book is kind of like Citizen Kane for kids. The author, Nick Bruel (of Bad Kitty fame), gets a letter from a boy named Jimmy, suggesting that he write a book about his best friend Melvin Bubble. So Bruel embarks on a series of interviews to discover just “who is Melvin Bubble?” Almost every page is a separate “interview,” with a different character rattling off everything they know or don’t know about the mysterious Mr. Bubble. His mom thinks he’s “the messiest boy in the world,” his teddy bear wants us to know that “he really likes hugs,” his dog chimes in with “Woof Woof Arf Woof…” and you even get random commentary from the Meanest Man in the World, the Tooth Fairy, and a zebra. You also get a little of the author’s reaction to each interviewee (“Hmm… Maybe we should move on.” for the monster), just before he transitions to a new character with “Now let’s ask…” Finally, it all comes together when the author asks Melvin Bubble himself who he is.
This book is so brilliant. Each interview is laugh-out-loud funny, and the author’s pithy reactions bring the reader in on the joke. But it’s also a lot of great lessons wrapped up in an accessible, enjoyable, non-didactic package: in defining one’s identity as something separate from how one is viewed by others, in not judging others by what someone else says about them, in the value of going straight to the source if you want to know the truth about something. The cartoonish, brightly-hued illustrations are a perfect compliment to the goofy text: think Michael Martchenko’s collaborations with Robert Munsch.
Clearly, I loved this picture book a lot. But you shouldn’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.