It’s Easter, and so I’m writing about bunnies. Bunnies are perhaps a little overdone in children’s literature, I’ll admit. They are so cute and cuddly and kind-looking. It seems the perfect match for our cute, cuddly, kind young readers, right? Think Pat the Bunny, or Big and Little Nutbrown Hare in Guess How Much I Love You. Did I mention Goodnight Moon? They are sweet and make you want to snuggle in for your bedtime treat, but sometimes enough is enough. Let’s take a little of Peter Rabbit’s feistiness, mix it with James Howe’s beloved Bunnicula, and now – enter Battle Bunny.
Here’s an oryctolagus cuniculus with a little zing, a little daring, a little ammunition! Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, two quippy authors well-known for their ability to tell hilariously ironic, sarcastic or plain silly tales for children, team up to re-do the saccharine sweet picture book Birthday Bunny by allowing “Alex” to scribble, draw, and rewrite the story to fit Battle Bunny. With a few extra lines drawn here and there, the birthday bunny becomes a lean, mean fighting machine among the evil forest critters. It’s no longer a birthday; it’s “doomsday!” Luckily, Alex himself makes an appearance to save the world from Battle Bunny and celebrate his own special day. You can expect a lot of hoots and hollers and probably jumping on the bed when you read this one at bedtime!
There aren’t as many chapter books featuring bunnies (not as many as mice or dogs, for example), so I guess the older kids graduate out of the super soft, squishy, hopping phase. So I was interested when one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path children’s authors, Polly Horvath, came out with Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire (by Mrs. Bunny, and translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath). And truly, these are no ordinary bunnies.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny decide to move to a new hutch and have no clue of the adventure that awaits, an adventure which is slowed down some by the delightful and humorous dialogue and storylines following the Bunnies and the humans in the book. When, out of the blue, Mrs. Bunny suggests they become detectives, Mr. Bunny is unsure and wonders if they will need detective licenses. “I think fedoras are enough. Anyone who sees a bunny in a fedora will not feel the need to see a license,” replies Mrs. Bunny. “It is very hard to find fedoras with holes cut out for our long and fuzzy ears, Mrs. Bunny. On the other hand, if we go to town we can drive our bright and shiny red Smart car.” Later, Mrs. Bunny explains to a girl how she gets her information:
“Google,” said Mrs. Bunny.
“I didn’t know you could Google marmots,” said Madeline.
“You can Google anything, dear,” said Mrs. Bunny patronizingly. “I just learned how to use the computer this year. Mr. Bunny taught me.”
“And I’m never teaching you anything again,” said Mr. Bunny.
“You got that straight,” said Mrs. Bunny.
If you enjoy this hilarious and really rather in-depth ride into the fascinating world of married bunny detectives, you will be thrilled to know a sequel is already out – Lord and Lady Bunny – Almost Royalty.
But I don’t mean to sell the long-lashed, cottontailed, warm and fuzzy bunnies short. They have their purpose and their time. Try Carol Roth’s Little Bunny’s Sleepless Night for an updated bedtime story, gorgeously illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev, one of my favorites. Or check out a classic like the newly reissued Velveteen Rabbit with illustrations reproduced from the 1922 first edition. Follow it with Goodnight Moon – yes, definitely do that – and put on the lullaby Bunny in the Moon by DidiPop for an excellent night’s rest. Tomorrow may be time for more battling with Battle Bunny!