Author/Illustrator: Natalie Babbitt
My rating: 3.5 of 5
The King and Queen love their little son the Prince very much. They want to provide for him in every way and make sure he has the very best to grow up well. Trouble is, they’re not entirely sure what the Very Best Thing for the Prince would be. So they go around the castle, asking everyone they meet. Too bad they don’t listen to the little Prince; he’s had the answer right from the start . . . but even if they never actually put a name to the Very Best Thing, I think the King and Queen figure it out pretty well.
I’ve always known Natalie Babbitt for her fantasies for somewhat older children, like Tuck Everlasting and The Search for Delicious; I never knew she also wrote and illustrated picture books. I really enjoyed Bub or The Very Best Thing. It’s a cute story about two parents who really want to raise their child well but aren’t quite sure how to go about it. The pictures are drawn/painted from actual models, and have a very realistic aspect. It’s interesting (kind of disconcerting, in my opinion) seeing this in conjunction with the medieval setting they’re found in. Although never particularly mentioned, there’s a big golden retriever who accompanies the family throughout the castle–a fun addition for children reading the book, but it’s weird for me to see this breed in a medieval setting. Did they actually even exist as a breed at that time? Still, a fun addition. Also, the way they go from one courtier to another, repeating the same routine each time, is the sort of pattern that works well with younger readers. And this is definitely intended for younger readers; the protagonist (the Prince) is about 2 to 3 years old, and I’d say the story is written for that age range up to maybe 5 years old. I do think Bub is a cute and fun story, particularly as a read-aloud story for younger children.