Bubble Trouble by Tom Percival (and how to breathe bubbles instead of fire)

posted in: Tom Percival | 5

9781408838761Even before I had finished reading Bubble Trouble by Tom Percival to the kids I knew this was a book we were going to have LOTS of fun with.

Have you ever had great fun playing with a friend but discovered things have got out of control when you try to out-do each other? That what was a shared and enjoyable activity became something competitive and a little threatening?

Bubble Trouble explores exactly this scenario, with two best friends who like nothing more than blowing bubbles together. In their desire to blow the biggest bubble, they become very inventive but some skulduggery also sneaks in. Will their friendship survive their determination to outplay each other?

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Percival’s lovely book thoughtfully and playfully explores the up- and downsides of competition and the value of teamwork. It also acknowledges that we don’t always learn from our mistakes straight away, something I haven’t seen often acknowledged in picture books. The “big issues” are hidden carefully in lots of delightfulness; the illustrations are soft and sweet, and there are lots and lots of flaps to play with. Percival has worked wonders with capturing that magic sheen of bubbles without resorting to foil or silver but rather just clever use of pastels and white.

A good-natured and honest exploration of some of the trials and tribulations of friendship, Bubble Trouble offers lots of room for discussion and a great excuse to play.

So yes, having shared Bubble Trouble lots of playing with bubbles was called for. We thought we’d try something different and so I taught the girls how to breath out bubbles, big and beautiful bubbles. Who wants to breath fire when you can breathe out bubbles?

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We used this recipe to make our bubble mixture:

  • 1.5 litres of tap water
  • 250ml of Fairy washing up detergent
  • 250ml of cornflour (yes, corn flour isn’t a liquid, but we used our measuring jug and filled it to the 250ml mark with the corn flour)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp glycerine (easily found in Boots/a chemist’s, probably in the sore throat section)

  • Once the bubble mixture was all stirred together, we left it for 24 hours. Everything I’ve read says that this stage is really important (though we haven’t checked what difference it makes ourselves).

    To breathe out bubbles here’s what you need to do:

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    1. Dip your hands into a bowl of tap water.
    2. Dip your hands into your bowl of bubble mixture. (The corn flour will probably have settled at the bottom of your mixture. This didn’t seem to be a problem)
    3. Rub your palms together smoothly and slowly a couple of times.
    4. Open out your hands to form a rough circle: Your fingertips and wrists/bottom of thumbs will remain touching each other, and you should see a film of bubble mixture form between your two hands.
    5. Gently blow through the opening between your two hands…..
    6. Gasp at your bubble blowing abilities!

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    You can also use this mixture to blow bubbles through a circle made using just your first finger and thumb (first make a fist, then slowly open out your finger/thumb before blowing), and also to make ENORMOUS bubbles using a home made bubble wand.

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    wandFor the homemade bubble wand you’ll need two lengths of dowelling. Screw an eye screw into each end and then put a large loop of string between the two eyes. It’s helpful to add a small weight such as a threaded button or a washer onto on side of your string loop.

    Dip your string into your bubble mixture (all the way, up to the start of the wooden rods), lift gently out and move the rods apart. You’ll see a film appear between the strings and then if you wave them from one side to the other you’ll create amazing bubble tunnels.

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    There’s nothing like a good bubble!

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    Whilst mixing up our bubble juice we listened to:

  • Bubble Factory by Recess Monkey
  • You and Me and a Bottle of Bubbles by Lunch Money
  • I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles by John Kellette but here sung by Vera Lynn

  • Other activities which you could pair with Bubble Trouble include:

  • Exploring the free activity pack to go with Bubble Trouble, downloadable from here. The pack includes colouring in, spot the difference and a different bubble recipe to try.
  • Painting with bubbles. Artful kids has 3 different techniques you could try.
  • Building and sculpting with bubbles. Did you ever sculpt with bubbles when you had a bubble bath?
  • Making bubble snakes, with this tutorial from Housing a Forest
  • Reading the marvellous Bubble Trouble by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Polly Dunbar. We reviewed it here (with a different bubble juice recipe, but we think our new recipe is better).

  • What are your favourite books which feature bubbles?

    Disclosure: We received a free review copy of Bubble Trouble from the publisher.

    5 Responses

    1. I grew up playing Bubble Bobble on Nintendo and can’t help but this of that game when reading about this book. It looks like an interesting take on competition. Thanks for the recommendation…I will definitely have to pick up this book!
      Catherine Ami recently posted..A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry

    2. Those are some pretty amazing bubbles!
      Melissa @ Honey Bee Books recently posted..6 tips for surviving a book fair

    3. I love all these ideas for bubble play! The book looks great!

    4. Tom Percival

      Thanks for the in depth review and fantastic activities! I’ll try the bubble breathing with my boys. And Catherine, I was a big fan of Bubble Bobble too, I must have been subconsciously influenced!

    5. Emma Foster

      Have just read the Tom Percival’s biography, and cannot believe he was influenced by the ‘Tim and the Hidden People’ series. I absolutely loved these books as a child, and have never met anyone else who had read them. I recently ready them to my eight year old son, who loved them also. So now I simply have to get hold of ‘Bubble Trouble’and read the work of the author who loved the same stories as myself as a child. I am hoping that my daughter (aged five) and baby son will enjoy this seemingly lovely tale of bubbles. We will definitely follow this up with making giant bubbles! Thanks for the fun post.

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