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The Bulletin
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The Big Picture, a regular Bulletin feature both on-line and off, is an in-depth look at selected new titles and trends. See the archive for selections from previous months.

Bubble Bath Pirates! written and illus. by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Viking, 2003 34p
ISBN 0-670-03599-8 $15.99
3-6 yrs

There are innumerable lovely bedtime books, suitable for reading aloud with cuddles during that standard daily ritual of childhood. Bathtime, however, is more of a literary challenge: for a start, it’d be an unusually docile child who’d sit still for a book while largely submerged, an unusual caretaker who could read while scrubbing, and an unusual book that would physically survive the watery excitement. Once past those obstacles, however, bathtime is an experience rife with opportunities for all kinds of playfulness, subversively messy cleanliness, and adult-sanctioned nakedness, and in Bubble Bath Pirates! Krosoczka makes the most of those opportunities.

It’s the piracy that’s the real inspiration here, making bathtime into a swashbuckling, splashbuckling triumph rather than a submission to an adult-enforced indignity. Credit clearly goes to the story’s wise mother, who has displayed considerable cunning in evolving what’s obviously an established ritual to get her two little guys into the bubbling tub, starting from her injunction to “Walk the plank!” The happy little pirates rule the high frothy seas under the watchful eye of “the pirate mommy,” sailing pirate schooners through the bubbles and piratically objecting to various ablutions (“‘Blimey,’ mumble her little pirates” as they undergo shampooing). The end of bathtime is a glorious culmination, with a countdown to plug-pulling (“Prepare the cannons!”); that’s not the end, though, since the slippery little customers evade their mother’s grasp, gallop off for “buried treasure in the kitchen” (heedless of clothing or bath towel), and dive into chocolate fudge ice cream (official pirate bounty).

The text is boisterous but contained (which is more than the bathwater will be), effectively balancing its rhythm with patterned dialogue wherein “pirate mommy” offers a directive and her “little pirates” respond; the book is rife with phrases that could be happily incorporated into audience bathtimes and give little bathaneers an excuse to explore those marvelous bathroom acoustics with salty bellows. Krosoczka’s thickly textured paints, the solid figures, and the ebullience (and the streaking) will remind some of Shannon’s No, David (BCCB 9/98), but this has plenty of flair all its own. Toothy grins (these are definitely pirates with unusually good dental hygiene) and cheerful faces keep the mood as buoyant as the bath toys, but the real bounty, aside from the ice cream, is the swashbuckling detail throughout. Brandished cutlasses, a skull-and-crossbones hat, even a convenient prosthetic hook suitable for pirates wishing to chase Peter Pan in the bath will have kids clamoring for their own home equivalents, but the prize above prizes will be the snarling rubber duckie with eyepatch (who figures prominently on the book’s cover and ours); you can practically hear him quacking a piratical poultry “Arghh!”

An attempt at a single-handed readaloud at bathtime will likely be scuppered by overenthusiastic participation, but there are lots of creative ways, short of laminating the pages, to find uses for this: staff bathtime with more than one grownup (really, you’d have to be a commander of the stature of the pirate mommy to hold effective sway over not just one but two such dastardly privateers on your own anyway) and flood the occasion with uproarious glee and the floor with spillover, or use this as a pre-bathtime enticement for reluctant washers. And on a hot summer day, add some salty savor to backyard hijinks: read them this while you squirt ’em with the hose.

Deborah Stevenson, Editor

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Cover illustration by Jarrett J. Krosoczka from Bubble Bath Pirates! ©2003 by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Used by permission of Viking Children’s Books.

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This page was last updated on March 1, 2003.