This review was first published in Resource Links Magazine, “Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults.” It appears in volume 20.5.
The Bus Ride
My first thought in reading Marianne DuBuc’s The Bus Ride was that these days, sadly, few children the age of the protagonist (who looks and acts about eight) would be allowed to ride the bus alone. “Good for DuBuc!” I thought, “Our children need to learn that they can be independent and secure in their world.” I am sure there will be parents who think this book advocates unsafe practices, but for me The Bus Ride is mostly about getting the reader to think: about independence, about sharing, about safety, about active engagement in the world.
The plot is simple. The protagonist is taking the bus by herself for the first time. She is all prepared: her mother has made her a snack, she has her sweater, she is confident and excited. She counts stops en route to her grandmothers, but so much is going on in the bus she loses count. It doesn’t matter. Passengers (mostly animals) board; passengers leave; the bus goes through a tunnel. Some passengers bring on a big box (“I wonder what’s in the giant box?”), then take it off again. The question remains unanswered, but it doesn’t matter. There is so much going on that the bus ride really is the adventure she thought it would be, each observation interesting, but none particularly important. While The Bus Ride does not present two parallel but different stories like Rosie’s Walk (1971) or Come Away from the Water, Shirley (1977) do so successfully, the technique is similar. The words tell the protagonist’s simple narrative; if we look at the pictures carefully (as young readers will), we are captivated by all that is going on around her, and are given clues to some of the otherwise seemingly meaningless comments she makes. (I particularly love the sloth who sleeps its way down the rows of seats…)
The only “real” excitement in the trip is a pick-pocket, a shady-looking fox in a trench coat, that lovers of Dora the Explorer will not be able to help calling “Swipper.” Our thief not only presents a little moral lesson (“Stealing is wrong. / Everyone knows that.”), but also gives a nod to the fact that travelling on transit requires vigilance, without feeding a culture of fear.