Trish Cooke’s Mr. Pam Pam and the Hullabazoo (1994)

Published by Candlewick Press in 1994, Mr. Pam Pam and the Hullabazoo is written by Trish Cooke and illustrated by Patrice Aggs. The story is told in the first-person from the point of view of a child who Mr. Pam Pam visits with his baby. Mr. Pam Pam is a long limbed  Black man whose sense of style is reminiscent of the mid-1990s when the book was published.

Mr. Pam Pam garners giggles from the narrator and and the narrator’s mom with exaggerated movements and silly jokes. He has a running joke with the narrator that involves a character named Hullabazoo. The young boy isn’t sure if Hullabazoo is real until one day when he shows up at the child’s house dressed clownishly.

The only thing that marks the text as queer is Mr. Pam Pam  and Hullabazoo walking down the street together after spending time with the narrator. Hullabazoo’s arm is on Mr. Pam Pam’s shoulder as he pushes the stroller with (presumably) their baby in it. The book certainly invites an aha moment – yes! – Hullabazoo is real and he is Mr. Pam Pam’s man. However, this reading might need to be prompted by an adult because of the text’s subtlety.

This is a fun story that will invite lots of giggles from very young readers. The urban setting and representations of Black family are rare in LGBTQ+ children’s literature making Mr. Pam Pam and the Hullabazoo a noteworthy contribution to the field of LGBTQ+ children’s picture books. The queer subtext is so subtle I won’t suggest it as a must-have for LGBTQ+ collections, but it is quite easy and inexpensive to purchase used, and it’s an enjoyable read!

This review is part of my “Snapshots of LGBTQ Kid Lit” project. I’m working on a book, The New Queer Children’s Literature: Exploring the Principles and Politics of LGBTQ* Children’s Picture Books, which is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi. Part of my research is identifying and interpreting English-language children’s picture books with LGBTQ* content published in the US and Canada between 1979 and 2019. Follow my blog to follow my journey!

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