About the Holiday
In 2006, Ruth Spiro, a children’s author and mother, established National Bubble Gum Day as a way for children to raise funds for their school and the charities it supports while having a little fun in the process. For this one day a year, students can earn permission to chew gum in class by donating 50 cents to the cause. Another fun and educational way to celebrate the day is by reading today’s book that tells the story of Walter Diemer and how he came up with the formula for bubble gum.
POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum
By Meghan McCarthy
In the 1920s, the Fleer family of Philadelphia was known for their factory where candy and gum were made. In an office upstairs the company’s accountant, Walter Diemer worked on the books and balanced the budgets. “He knew lots about math but not much about gum.” As the company outgrew its laboratory space downstairs, a new, experimental laboratory was set up in a room next to Walter’s office. Walter watched with curiosity as beakers, tubes, pots, and other equipment were moved into the lab.
Soon he learned that “the company was trying to make a new kind of chewing gum.” Chewing gum had been around in various forms for centuries and used for fun and also for medicinal purposes. Gum, the Fleers thought had become kind of boring. “But what if gum chewers could blow bubbles?”
In the experimental laboratory, Walter watched as the scientists tinkered and tested. Not much progress was made. Then one day Walter’s boss asked him to watch one of the experimental batches. Walter became so intrigued that he began experimenting with it himself, adding this and that. Still nothing happened. Finally, Walter’s boss gave up.
Walter, however, kept trying. Months later he had a bubbling concoction. All it needed, Walter thought, was some flavor. He “added a bit of cinnamon, a dash of wintergreen, a drop of vanilla…” and wondered if this could be bubble gum at last. He “put a wad into his mouth and began to chew.” Then “he blew a magnificent bubble!” He gave some to his coworkers, and as Walter remembered it, “‘We were blowing bubbles and prancing all over the place!’”
But the next day when Walter came to work, his batch of bubble gum was as hard as a rock. Walter went back to work on his invention. Months—and some top-secret ingredients—later, Walter had just the consistency he wanted. The gum now needed some color. Pink was the only food coloring he had, so he poured it in.
On the day after Christmas, a batch of the bubble gum was cut into pieces and delivered to a small candy store. The people who came in were given a piece to chew and became “the first people in the world to try a bubble gum that worked.” Walter even “gave lessons on how to blow bubbles.” Soon, truckloads of Walter’s Double Bubble were being delivered to stores, big and small, all over.
Walter went on to become the vice president of the Fleer company. When he retired, Walter spent his time riding his giant tricycle and engaging the neighborhood kids in bubble gum blowing contests. Walter didn’t get rich from his invention, but knowing that he had made kids all over the world happy was enough reward for him.
Extensive back matter includes more information on Walter Diemer, facts about gum, and resources on the quotes found in the story.
Kids who love bubble gum and inventing will find lots of information to chew on as they follow Walter’s journey from accountant to inventor. His stick-to-itivness in the face of defeat and even after the scientists and his boss had given up offers inspiration and a good lesson that sometimes success takes longer than you think. The included bits of history may spur readers to learn more about how gum was used by our ancestors and other cultures, and chemists in the making may want to investigate and compare Walter’s flavor and color ingredients against today’s bubble gum.
Meghan McCarthy’s storytelling is delightfully conversational and sprinkled with quotes from Walter Diemer, creating a personal narrative that will resonate with kids.McCarthy’s cartoon-inspired illustrations match the light-hearted tone of her story, and the laboratory scenes froth and bubble mysteriously as Walter adds and stirs up the secret ingredients that finally succeeded in bringing the world this long-favorite treat.
A charming, quick-paced look at the creation of a best-loved treat, POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum will engage kids in history and inspire them to keep trying even when everyone else has given up. The book would also make an entertaining and accessible lead in to chemistry lessons in the classroom.
Ages 4 – 8
Simon and Schuster, 2010 | ISBN 978-1416979708
To learn more about Meghan McCarthy, her books, and her art, visit her website
National Bubble Gum Day Activity
Gumball Machine Coloring Page
Where’s a great place to get some bubble gum? A gumball machine, of course! Have fun adding all of your favorite colors to this printable Gumball Machine Coloring Page.
You can find POP! The Invention of Bubble Gum at these booksellers
Picture Book Review