posted in: Margaret Mahy, Polly Dunbar | 1

We’ve not had much luck with sunshine so far this summer, so when the rain did finally abate earlier this week we made the most of being able to enjoy the garden without wellies and coats.

Whilst it was still pouring (but in the spirit of positive thinking) we made some super strength bubble mixture using this recipe:

1/2 cup of concentrated washing up liquid
5 cups water
2 tablespoons glycerine (available at the pharmacy or supermarket)


We mixed the ingredients together slowly, trying to not create any bubbles whilst we did so and then we left the mixture overnight to settle. I don’t know quite what difference this makes, but any recipe you find for homemade bubbles along these lines says that the final mixture will work better if you leave it. So leave it we did (much to the annoyance of M who wanted to use it straight away, of course).

The next day the sun was indeed shining (hooray!) and so we prepared our bubble blowing equipment – a butterfly net and large plastic racket from Poundland, divested of their netting/strings to leave just the frames, the idea being that we would use these as jumbo versions of the small sticks usually found inside bottles of bubble mixture.

To complete the picture, out came our bubble machine (with regular shop bought bubble mixture – I’ve read that home made stuff will clog up the mechanism, and didn’t want to risk it) and -Voila! – our garden was transformed into a shimmering bubble fest to the delight of us all.




When we’d had our fill of bouncing around the garden bursting the smaller bubbles, and trying to make mega bubbles we caught our breath back on the sofa inside with Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy and Polly Dunbar, a wonderful poem/story in rhyme warning of the perils of playing with bubbles…

One day little Mabel is blowing bubbles when her baby brother gets caught inside one and blown away, over the town, higher and higher into the sky. Although the baby quite enjoys the experience (“The baby didn’t quibble. He began to smile and dribble,/ For he liked the wibble-wobble of the bubble in the air.“) his sister, her family and gradually all the townsfolk he floats past are indeed concerned about his fate. Determined to save her brother, Mabel climbs on the shoulders of the other children but just as she reaches out the villain of the story, Abel, shoots at the bubble with his sling and suddenly the future does not look so bright for the boy in the bubble…


Margaret Mahy’s poem is *so* much fun to read, with a great rhythm and clever use of alliteration and rhyme. The vocabulary is more challenging than that used in many books aimed at young children, including words like “cavil”, “cavorting” and “nefarious”) but I found my 4 year old was curious about these strange and special words, the fact that they are unusual only adding to the magic of the story. My 1 year old also enjoyed the poem a great deal even if the vocabulary was clearly way beyond her – the great musicality of the text carries reader and listener along with ease.

(In the spirit of honest parenthood I ought to put one small warning out there, perhaps: if you’re reading this lovely book when you’ve just been woken up at first light by a child who is not interested in the meaning of sleep and you haven’t yet had a coffee many of the lines could double as tongue twisters that may prove a challenge until you’re up and running!)

Polly Dunbar’s illustrations are cheerful and bright and have succeeded in making M wish she could blow a bubble around her little sister! Interestingly, another version of Bubble Trouble is available illustrated by Tony Ross, but we haven’t yet had a chance to look at it to see how it compares.

When the rain returned the next day we attempted to continue the bubble mayhem indoors by making our own bubble bath solution. We used this recipe (sorry – I haven’t kept a note of where it came from):

1 cup Soap Flakes
1 cup Water
2 – 3 tbsp Glycerin
1 drop Essential Oil / Fragrance Oil (although we actually left this out)

But… it didn’t work at all well. Although there were some bubbles in the water as I agitated it whilst the taps ran, by the time the bath was full and the girls got in, there were barely any bubbles left and instead the water looked like it had a horrible scum floating on the top (and I swear this is nothing to do with my (*ahem*) skills at cleaning the bath ;-))



To rescue the situation we added some colour and magic crackles, but today we’ve given in and gone to Boots to buy a commercial brand of bubble bath! (If anyone knows a recipe for home made bubble bath that does work, please let me know!)


bubble-trouble-frontcoverBubble Trouble: 3star

Our soundtrack these past few days has included Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble and on the piano I’ve stumbled through “I’m forever blowing bubbles” accompanied on the kazoo and drums by M and I. Next bubble day I’d like to try painting with bubbles like this and like this. I’d also like to try the bubble wands that Monkey Lobster has instructions for (found via the Crafty Crow) – we didn’t have many containers that were big enough to lay our giant wands flat in, and perhaps this problem would be overcome by using Monkey Lobster’s design.

  1. Penguins | Playing by the book

    […] working through the shelves J pulled down Penguin by Polly Dunbar, who we’d come across previously when we read (and enjoyed) Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy. Penguin won the Booktrust Early Years […]

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