Bibi Blundermuss and the Tree Across the Cosmos by Andrew Durkin
Publisher: Yellow Bike Press
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
Twelve-year-old Bibi Blundermuss is terrified of trees. Being around them makes her dizzy and sick to her stomach—even comatose. So, when her only to chance to find her missing parents means climbing a magic tree in the forest near her home, she almost doesn’t take it.
When Bibi grits her teeth and scales the trunk, the tree grows—so violently that she and her cat Eek are catapulted into another world. Here, she befriends a herd of elk, on the run from a pack of vicious white lions. And she discovers, to her amazement, that her mother is a witch who has been protecting the elk with a poison flower spell, which keeps the lions away.
Yet the longer Bibi stays in the world of the elk and lions, the less sure she is that her mother is truly on the elks’ side—or even on Bibi’s side. In the end, a dangerous journey into the lions’ lair and a reunion with both parents uncovers a secret that changes Bibi’s life forever. Drawn into an epic snowbound battle against an army of zombie trees, she must face her greatest fear to discover her greatest power.
Courage makes all sorts of things possible.
Bibi was a well-rounded and likeable main character. Her severe anxiety endeared me to her, especially when she was doing her best to face her fears despite how overwhelming they felt. I also enjoyed seeing how she incorporated her Zulu and Icelandic heritage into her everyday life. She loved both of her cultures and found all sorts of creative ways to honor them. Little details like this were what really made her personality come alive to me.
It would have been nice to see more attention paid to world building. For example, animals can talk in Bibi’s world and phobias don’t work the same way there as they do in our world at all. Both of these things were accepted at face value by all of the characters. I would have found the phobia storyline especially confusing if I were a middle grade reader because of how oddly Bibi’s hylophobia presented itself and how the resolution to that issue was framed. This is something I’m saying as a reader who loves fantasy and can easily suspend my disbelief when magical things happen. There’s nothing wrong with following a different set of rules, but not having clear explanations of why these things happened did prompt me to go with a lower rating than I would have otherwise chosen despite loving everything else about it.
The pacing fit the tone of the storyline well even though it did not always follow the same patterns. Some scenes worked best if they were savored, and others benefited from a quicker explanation of what was happening in them. It isn’t always easy to write a story that can make all of the adjustments necessary for this sort of pacing, so I commend the author for pulling it off here. He did a great job of preparing this reader to slow down and admire the glittery flowers of a magical forest filled with talking elk and then speed up again as pivotal scenes loomed on the horizon.
Bibi Blundermuss and the Tree Across the Cosmos was a wild ride that I’d recommend to anyone who loves adventurous fantasy.