The Adventures of the Bubblegum boy

Image Courtesy: Internet
Image Courtesy: Internet

“The Bubblegum Boy” is the story of a young boy who discovers magic in the unlikeliest alleys of a shopping mall and his journey thereafter into enchanting worlds and magical lands . . . till he comes back to the real world, but not without a mission to gain the superpowers of the fantasy world, forever.

The book is written by the author Neera Maini Srivastav, of a child-adult fiction novella titled ‘The White Crow’, now being made into movie. A postgraduate in English Literature for Bombay University, she began her career in advertising and then moved on to senior creative roles.  Having pioneered the creative start-up cell at the Times Group, she moved on to assume the role of Creative Head in a renowned film production house. Having earned accolades and awards for creativity, she has continued to hone her talents and expand the base of creative expressions, gaining academic and practical knowledge in screenwriting and creative writing.

Well, in case you are wondering what I am doing writing about fiction for children, let me explain. When the authors agent contacted me for a review, I was interested because there was a review comment on the back of the book, stating how Neera was the new JK Rowling of India. I am a great fan of JKR and obviously wanted to know what Neera’s book was all about…

“The adventures of…” is the story of Bob – the youngest of 3 children and his quest to fit in with the rest of the family and not be picked on by his older siblings. When on a family week-end trip to the mall, he ends up meeting a talking oak tree called “Hari” and finds his way into Candyland, the land where time stands still, the land filled with majestic ice cream mountains, chocolate rivers and fruity  raindrops. He accidentally frees the folk of candyland from an age-old curse and gains a superpower as a parting gift that he uses in his own realm…

The author has created Bob, on the lines of the “Kevin”  from the “Home Alone Series” – the youngest in his family who is perceived as helpless and needy by the rest of the family, while all that the youngster is trying to do is establish an identity of his own and rebelling in his own way. Life continues to be a nag for Bob, till a funny turn of events separates him from the rest of his family for a few hours….. The comparisons from “Home ALone” cannot be missed at all!

A lot of adult concepts on spiritualism, consumerism and happiness seem to be have been packed into this book…There seems to be references to metaphysical factors, the masks that people wear, necessity of material things in our lives etc., Assuming that this book has been targeted at the tweens (10 and 13) I am not sure how many young adults would be able to grapple with such concepts! And I am at least 70% sure that not too many teens would read this book, considering it is pretty slow and not exciting enough for the teens of today…The locales of the book seemed to be straight out of and Enid Blyton novel rather than a JKR novel… I could picturise the lands of the Faraway tree and the world of Noddy, but not as interesting when I read this book. One look at the cover and you cannot miss  the comparisons to Blyton books!

Also I felt that certain sections of the book, just seemed to be a random description of environs around Bob…I mean we have definitely read such things before, but somehow this could not hold my interest. Maybe it could hold the interest of a 10 or 11 year old? I wouldn’t be too sure considering that the mysterious or the fun factor that accompanies such descriptions seemed to be absent. For e.g:

Entrance tickets, all purchased. Now the Roys were officially eligible to enter the mall. A lot of sacrifices went into it – Dad’s SUNDAY, Mom’s putting up with dad’s impatience, Sam and Janie’s forced obedience and Bob’s Red Tee! Besides, the rain, the traffic, the squabbles. However, their brush with stardom somewhat dissipated their lofty sacrifices. And of course, Bob’s brief encounter with the Oak tree and a brief glimpse of magic that he stomached with the mature composure of an adult.

Large, swanky glass doors opened automatically as they stepped afoot into Funderland. There were more people in there than any of the railway stations. Bustling with excited crowd, even more excited children, this was a gateway to the world of desires. Mom held my hand but as soon as we entered and she came face-to-face with glittering shops and brands, her hand left Bob’s with the ease Bob had always prayed for. So was it Wishland? Sam and Janie floated around till Dad issued a loud warning amidst the maddening din “Hold on, stay together. Sheena, be with them.” Mom was far away from complying. “

“Split into three levels, the mall was divided into four zones: North, South, East and West. Mom chose the South and dad the West for obvious vested interests. South housed all the fashion brand clothes, shoes, jewellery, accessories, etc., and west was the men’s domain – music, electronics, book stores. Man and the machine – inseparable like woman and fashion. East was the Food Court section and North was dotted with home stores. Surprisingly, mom was ready to forego home for herself. After all, six days a week was enough for that-now was her “Me-time”: Indulgence lay round the corner”

There doesn’t seem to be anything fun about what is being said above, whereas JKRs description of platform 9 and 3/4s and the Hogwarts express just had children and adults clamouring for more…..Maybe it just me, but I thought something was missing. Plus the whole concept of finding magic through a bubblegum did not sell with me and I am not sure why.Hey! But I am an adult (or I think I am) so maybe I am wrong…

What I thought about this book? To be honest, I don’t know what to say! I have grown up reading about toylands, treacle puddings oozing endlessly out of magical pans, magical lands on top of a tree filled with pixies, fairies, saucepan men and more,  friendly goblins, fantasy adventures, green witches and yellow brick roads. So I definitely did read this book with an open mind but it took me long to finish it and I was bored…Also the book ended on a note that hinted of sequels to this book and I am not sure how successful they might be.

The author’s first book “The White Crow” is being made into a movie, maybe I should read that so that I can draw a better comparison to this book. Until then I will wait for some kid to tell me what he / she thought about this book…


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