Thursday, December 26, 2013

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett

Co-authors Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett and have come up with a marvelously subversive take on the classic children's picture book with Battle Bunny, a fluffy tale about how all of Birthday Bunny's friends forgot his special day (but not really) nail-biting thriller about Battle Bunny's seemingly unstoppable Evil Plan.

With this book you're really two stories for the price of one:

There's the boring traditional story with a predictably happy and saccharine ending. The book is even designed to look like an old-fashioned children's book — the kind in vogue 50 years ago — complete with faded, worn edges on the cover and a personal note from "Gran Gran" to the book's owner, Alex, on the inside.

And then there's the story that every kid (and the kid in all of us) will appreciate, the one penned by Alex, who decided to take it upon himself to add his own edits to the story, including adjustments to illustrator Matthew Myers' pictures. The scene in which Birthday Bunny eats his favorite breakfast of carrot juice and a bowl of Carrot Crispies becomes Battle Bunny chowing down on brain juice and a bowl of greasy guts. Alex's scribbles morph Birthday Bunny from an adorable, wide-eyed ball of fur to a piratical villain complete with helmet, eye patch, a scar on the ear, walkie talkie and utility belt.

Sciezka and Barnett send up just about every Golden Book trope in the rewritten story to hilarious effect: They throw in gross details (refer back to the mention of brain juice), weapons (ranging from hacksaws to megatron bombs), questionable values (Battle Bunny sits on a throne that reads, "Power is good, power is mine") and violence (of the silly, cartoonish variety). Battle Bunny's taking no prisoners as he wreaks havok throughout the forest. Who will save the wild land creatures from his nefarious plan? You'll have to read it to find out.

Given the format of the book, this story could be a bit of a challenge to use as a read-aloud. In addition, there's also the possibility that younger kids might misunderstand the drawings and take it upon themselves to doodle over other books. But those caveats aside, Battle Bunny is a fantastic story that will appeal to younger kids for its ingenious way of taking a staid story and turning into a clever heart-pounder.

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