A Picture Book of the Week (PBOW) Feature

Battle Bunny
John Scieszka and Mac Barnett, authors
Matthew Myers, illustrator
Simon & Schuster, 2013

  1. If you haven’t gotten your hands on this hilarious book, put that on your to do list ASAP. (If you’re reading this and don’t have the book in hand, take a look at the spread on the publisher’s website.)
  2. Did you know there’s an e-book version of this book? WHAT?? How does THIS book translate to e-book land? The whole point of the book is that a book has been defaced, not a screen. But I digress.

 I’ll confess that this book intrigued me when I first saw the cover this summer, but at the same time I didn’t see how it could be so funny. And thankfully, I was wrong. Because funny it is. I guffawed the first time I read it (good thing I waited until I was home from the library!). And then I started showing it to other adults–who also chortled. My kids, though? They don’t quite get it. Which makes me wonder who the real target audience is. Maybe my kids aren’t quite old enough to really get why it’s so funny? (They’re first and second graders; maybe third and fourth would be perfect.) Or maybe my kids are too aghast that someone “wrote” in a book to find it funny :-). Any thoughts here? Regardless of the audience question, the book is sheer genius.

Concept: I don’t usually do this, but Battle Bunny merits a little ‘splainin’. Let’s pretend that we’re, oh, an 8- or 9-year old boy whose loving grandmother has just given another cherubic, dippy picture book about a saccharine little bunny and his forest friends–who all forget that it’s his special day. The heartache, the grief, as little Birthday Bunny hops along and watches Crow save “shiny pebbles for [his] Sparkly Nest.” Well, what would you do if you, as a frustrated kid, received such schmarm? You might, um, edit said story to make it more appealing. The creators of Battle Bunny first wrote a vintage looking “sweet” story complete with cuddly forest creatures and talk of Bunny’s “special day.” Then, they went back over the story of Birthday Bunny and created Battle Bunny. The whole thing is so clever and well done–you just have to see this one, folks. But let’s walk through and look at some of those clever tricks.

Cover: You must examine both front and back covers of this one. Trust me. Even down to adding in ridiculous years of “birth” for the authors’/illustrator’s “special days,” the edited titles of other books about Bunny, and the slightly grainy feel to the images–not to mention the “erased” marks in the title and the new penciled in title. Complete package. Look at all the details.

Endpapers: Oh, that second set of endpapers made me laugh. I may have snorted.

Title Page: You guys are so funny! There’s even a loving inscription to “Alexander” (when he clearly wants to be called “Alex”) from his Gran Gran. (cackling ensues)

Palette: Suitably vintage looking: colors are a bit muted compared to today’s.

Layout: Those circular illustrations with the text placed firmly on the white space and very boring font: it takes me back to picture books I remember (*coughs* Little Golden Books).

Details: Here we could spend some serious time. But explaining a joke takes all the fun away, doesn’t it? It’s important to read/look at the “original” story to get just how convincing a job these guys did. And then read the new-and-improved words/images on each page and enjoy. Oh, I can just see a kid gleefully making the shiny pebbles into “megatron bombs.” And let’s face it: “Shaolin Bear” and “Ninja Turtle” are way cooler sounding than “Bear” and “Turtle.” And, if you do want to try your hand at re-writing Birthday Bunny, you can: check out MyBirthdayBunny.com where you can download the “unedited” version of Birthday Bunny.

What did I miss? What was your favorite part of this book? (Anyone out there?) 
In case you’re wondering why I discuss this book during the Christmas season, 
let me remind all you fellow book-gifters out there: 
pick out good books, not dippy ones, for your little sweethearts.

Next week’s Picture Book of the Week is a Christmas title: The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Holly Hobbie (quite a change from Battle Bunny!)

Book from local library; cover image from Simon and Schuster

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