Updated: Apr 6
“You won’t believe what she’s afraid of.”
Bullying is hard no matter who you are, but Bibi Blundermuss gets a lot of it thanks to her crippling fear of trees. She has harbored this anxiety ever since her parents disappeared six months previously, and she is determined to find them…if only she can be brave enough to get close to the forest nearby. This compelling tale is a fun read, especially because of its blending of a familiar Earth with an unfamiliar sister planet. Additionally, Bibi’s biracial heritage is mentioned occasionally, especially through the incorporation of Zulu vocabulary within the narrative, which I enjoyed very much. This is an action-packed novel that will appeal to comfortable middle grade readers with an interest in portal fantasy. Please see my full review below!
Being in seventh grade is hard enough without a crippling phobia that is unknown to most people. Ever since her parents disappeared six months ago, twelve-year-old Bibi Blundermuss has suffered from the rare affliction of hylophobia—a fear of trees. The trouble is, she has no memory of what happened to her parents and no rational explanation for her fear. So, when her trusty cat Eek ventures into the forest one day, Bibi must summon all of her courage to retrieve her. Guided by a swarm of bees speaking with her mother’s voice, Bibi discovers a sapling that propels her beyond the reaches of Earth and into an adventure that will change her life forever.
Engagingly written, this story incorporates ample simile and metaphor to give mid-level middle grade readers a visual anchor to the portal fantasy world Bibi inhabits. The narrative launches almost immediately into action, providing just enough foundation for readers to understand who Bibi is and why her journey is so compelling. This action-focused design will keep readers engaged in the story while enhancing their confidence with longer and more complex plot lines. Likewise, Bibi’s palpable anxiety will be familiar to any reader who has experienced similar challenges, especially as she repeats phrases and thoughts throughout the narrative when in heightened emotional states.
Bibi’s journey throughout this story is one that will resonate with middle grade readers especially as Bibi begins to trust herself more and more as the plot progresses. Initially frightful and resistant to change, Bibi emerges as a strong and capable young woman because of the events in which she finds herself. Her parents are loving and supportive, providing Bibi with an important foundation from which to grow. Written for a mid-level middle grade audience, this book builds upon series fiction like The Magic Treehouse—incorporating short chapters and occasional illustrations—while preparing readers for more complex storytelling later on through dynamic plot lines and a rich narrative. Young readers will enjoy getting to know Bibi and her companions through this book and will eagerly await the second installment.
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