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Pickle Me This

March 19, 2015

The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc

the-bus-rideWe’re becoming big fans of Marianne Dubuc’s books at our house, having enjoyed In Front of My House and Animal Masquerade. You will recall that picking up the latter title resulted in our entire family eventually assembling on the couch, gathering together captured by the book’s magic, and laughing hysterically at the surprises and absurdity. Dubuc’s latest book, The Bus Ride, similarly engages and surprises, and while it’s is very loosely based on the Little Red Riding Hood narrative, a more fitting descriptive for the story would be “curiouser and curiouser.”

The Bus Ride is the story of a little girl’s first ride along on a city bus to visit her grandmother’s house. Her mother sees her off at the bus stop, ensuring she’s got a snack and a sweater in case she gets cold. And from there the rest of the story is of the bus ride, the bus’s interior each two-page spread. Passengers embark at the front doors and alight through the back. The little girl narrates what she sees in a sentence or two, although the real story is happening in Dubuc’s illustrations. A cat is knitting a scarf that grows ever-longer, a mouse is reading a tiny book, a family of rambunctious moles (I think?) climbs on board and end up swinging from the overhead bars (and one chews on a piece of gum he finds on the floor). A family of wolves boards the bus and the little girl makes friends with the wolf-boy who’s about her age—they share her cookies. A sleepy sloth snoozes the ride away. Someone’s hiding behind a newspaper whose headlines are ever-changing and reference what’s going on the pictures. I admired in the stolid bear in his big blue boats.

busThey pass through the forest, through a tunnel. Children run amuck. The fox keeps sleeping. The owl woman in the hat seems quite uncomfortable, and characters keep turning up in different places. The turtle gets nervous and hides in his shell. A wannabe pickpocket—a fox, of course—boards the bus, and and the little girl helps to divert a crime. And what is the beaver carrying inside his really big box?

While The Bus Ride is first a story of one girl’s first independent journey into the world, it’s fundamentally a story of how interesting the world is and how fascinating it is to be in the midst of it all. At the end of the bus ride, the little girl reflects on all the stories she has to tell her grandmother now. Hers is an apprenticeship in narrative, but it is for the reader as well, who assembles her own story based on the curious scenes depicted in Dubuc’s illustrations, which are detailed and accessible, appealingly rendered in pencil crayon. And like all the very best picture books, it’s completely different with every encounter.

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