After waving goodbye to her mother and hopping onto the No. 18 bus, a little girl gets a front-row view of the drama and funny adventures unfolding onboard. The diverse animal ridership includes a sleeping sloth, a rambunctious family of moles, and a dastardly pickpocket fox. As passengers come and go, acts of kindness, courage, and tomfoolery take place in the aisle. When the child reaches her grandmother’s house at the end of her trip, she has many stories to tell.
The minimal text is an exuberant, child-like stream of consciousness: “Mom packed me a snack – and had me bring my sweater in case I get cold. But I won’t get cold. I never do. I wonder how many stops the bus will make. Maybe I’ll count them….” There are subtle nods to fairy tale characters and settings, while newspaper headlines add another layer of running commentary (“Rumble-Jumble On the Bus”).
Governor General’s Literary Award–winning Quebec author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc packs every page of this finely crafted and intricately designed work with witty details. The long, narrow trim size provides the perfect vehicle for the multitude of storylines, and mimics the feel of both the bus and the road it drives upon. The watercolour and coloured-pencil illustrations provide a panoramic view of all the activity happening inside and outside the bus. When traveling through a tunnel, the pages are cast in black shadow; back in the light, there are myriad topsy-turvy changes for sharp eyes to notice, such as the baby wolf’s pacifier ending up in its father’s mouth, and a mole peeking out of the bashful turtle’s shell. All of the characters have distinct personalities, from the huge, lumbering bear wearing shiny blue rain boots to the prim, wide-eyed owl with a pocketbook neatly placed on her lap.
The Bus Ride is an imaginative journey that readers won’t want to end. Luckily, children can extend the trip by finding something new with each perusal and inventing their own accounts of the adventure.