Monday, May 30, 2011

The Boy Who Invented The Bubble Gun by Paul Gallico

The Boy Who Invented The Bubble Gun
by Paul Gallico
Dell 0719
Copyright 1974

Nine and a half year-old Julian West is an innovated kid. He came up with his own little invention, a toy gun that shoots bubbles, and he is pretty excited about it. Shunned by his father, Julian sneaks out one night and with $150, he hops onto a Greyhound bus going to Washington to get a patent for his “bubble gun.” Well, the adventure begins and along the way we see it unfold through the eyes of the young boy.

The novel is subtitled An Odyssey of Innocence, and Paul Gallico beautifully captures that inevitable moment in life, when a young boy realizes that childhood is over and discovers what the world is really like. During Julian’s passage, he touches the lives of an odd assortment of characters. He meets up with two love-struck teenagers, a cat-and–mouse drama between the KGB and CIA, an immigrant musician looking forward to a new life in America, and there is even an unstable killer who attempts to hijack the bus. But its the bond between Julian and a disillusioned Vietnam veteran named Frank Marshall, that brings the reality of the existence of the unfair laws of human nature to him. Marshall takes to the kid, protecting and befriending him. Julian looks up to Marshall, who comes to symbolize many things in a world that can be both awe-inspiring and dangerous. And it is because of the trip and the time he spends with Marshall, that allows in the end, Julian’s relationship with his father to develop.

This is the second time that I read “The Boy Who Invented The Bubble Gun,” the first time was when it came out in 1974. The story of a nine year-old traveling alone across the country and some of the interactions between the characters, may be a bit unbelievable today. But I enjoyed it in 1974, and again in 2009. Paul Gallico was a remarkable writer. (If you ever read “The Snow Goose,” you'll know what I mean) It doesn’t matter that the novel was written 35 years ago, Gallico’s writing touches your heart and the maturing of Julian West will be long remembered.

“The Boy Who Invented The Bubble Gun” is a compelling story that takes us on a journey that is both heartwarming and inspiring.


mybillcrider said...

I read this when it first came out in paperback, and I second your high recommendation.

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd read everything by Galico, and I've never even heard of this. Time to rectify that mistake!

Coastline said...

Wow .. great memory of 'shopping with my mom' ... the first book I ever picked out at the store ...

Anonymous said...

I was ten when I read it and I cried at the end

Anonymous said...

This book was part of a Readers Digest Condensed edition, which I read as a kid, tucked in the sitting room at the back of the house. The only thing I remember is when he shoots it at some bad guy and a stream of bubbles emerges. I must have been only 8 or 9. Would like to find a copy of this again.