That run-on sentence tells us a couple of things about Louis Goldman’s clever graphic novel for kids, “Veronica Viggle and the Bubble Gum Machine: A Mad Scientist Story.” First, it captures the essence of the storyline. Second, it shows the author’s creativity, found throughout the book, in how he communicates the urgency of a fast-talking character, in this case the one known as The Little Girl.
“Veronica Viggle” provides a fun, captivating and exciting story for children, geared primarily to second to fifth grade reading levels, and has a variety of emotions and character traits on display — fear, courage, ingenuity, intelligence, cunning, good and evil, just to name a few. What makes it so heartwarming is that Goldman has recreated the Mad Scientist from stories told to him and his siblings by his father when they were young children. In fact, he sets up his own book with a father coming in to tell the story to his children right before bedtime.
The Little Boy is an obsessive builder. While building a rollercoaster with his friend The Little Girl, the devious Veronica Viggle is spying on the children on behalf of the Mad Scientist, who intends to capture The Little Boy and turn him into bubble gum. And capture him he does, thus generating The Little Girl’s frantic ramblings to Gus the Inventor to help save her little friend.
The tale provides a fun back and forth one-upmanship of the nefarious Mad Scientist’s inventions to capture the children and good-guy Gus the Inventor’s inventions to counter the Mad Scientist’s contraptions and schemes. For example, Mad Scientist has an invention that, when it strikes its victims, makes them “perplexed” and not able to carry out their mission. But Gus has a Reverser that brings on the reverse effect of the Scientist’s device, making the targets “astonishingly astute” instead of perplexed. Goldman’s imagination has no bounds here.
The characters and inventions of Goldman’s mind are vividly portrayed in the graphic novel format and delivered with the dynamic, high-quality, personality-revealing illustrations of Charbak Dipta.
As Goldman introduces the characters, he provides an info page with fun facts on each, which helps define their interests, quirks and fears, and allows children to relate and often compare them to their own traits. For example, The Little Boy’s hobbies include street hockey and making movies, “likes” include science experiments and creative writing, and fears include mustard on hot dogs and sharks swimming in the pool.
Or in the case of The Little Girl: plays the piano, the violin and soccer; likes reading mysteries, painting, math and science and cheese biscuits; scared of the basement, not being cozy and unicorns. And of course, her unusual characteristic: she speaks incredibly fast and high. “In fact, it is almost impossible to understand her.”
“Veronica Viggle and the Bubble Gum Machine” is an exciting, fast-paced story for children, told in the context of a bedtime story — similar to what the author himself experienced growing up. It has relatable characters who are well-defined, and the plot puts them in a most unusual situation. The author’s imagination runs wild as his protagonist is in peril, and he focuses on a theme of inventions that children will find funny, entertaining and relevant to the plot.
So will The Little Boy end up as a piece of bubble gum at the hands of The Mad Scientist? That’s for your kids to find out.
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