A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Battle Bunny is a clever, highly original picture book by author Jon Scieszka (The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales) and Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Mac Barnett (Extra Yarn). The concept is that a boy, the unseen Alex, has taken a sentimental book about Birthday Bunny and his woodland friends and marked it up with his pencil to rewrite the story and alter the pictures. "Birthday Bunny" becomes "Battle Bunny," who hatches an evil plan for world domination. The battle theme and cartoon violence (with explosions and battles on every page) may be more appropriate for first through third graders than for younger kids. Also, because there are two story lines to untangle -- the original text competes with the story scribbled over it -- the book is better as an independent read than as a read-aloud.
What's the story?
There are two stories here. The underlying one about a bunny having a birthday is the earnest sort enjoyed by readers in the 1950s; will Bunny's woodland friends remember his special day? Also, cleverly, the art is reminiscent of that era. But that story has been altered by a boy who's more interested in battles than birthdays. That boy is Alex, the fictional owner of the book. Under Alex's subversive pencil, \"Birthday Bunny\" becomes \"Battle Bunny,\" unleashing his dastardly plan. His \"Birthday\" becomes \"Doomsday,\" and the birthday hats morph into mind-control helmets. Who'll save the day? Alex will, of course, by inserting himself into the action with text and stick-figure art, taking on Battle Bunny and all the zombies he commands. There's even a cameo from an unmistakable President Obama, who gives a presidential order for Alex to step in.
Is it any good?
The word brilliant comes to mind. Who are the twisted masterminds who came up with this idea? Mac Barnett is the author-illustrator of the zany Count the Monkeys, and author Jon Scieszka founded Guys Read, a Web-based literacy program to get boys, who are too often reluctant readers, to enjoy books.
There's lots of cartoony violence here -- these woodland creatures are heavily armed. Younger kids may be overwhelmed by it all, or maybe only mystified, and sensitive kids might be turned off by the violence and tough-talking confrontation. But kids who jump into superhero stories and action-adventure will eat it up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about cartoon violence. How is it different from violence in the real world or on TV and in movies? What are some more effective ways for kids to solve problems and resolve differences?
Battle Bunny is a perfect book for male bonding. Dads or other male caregivers sharing the book with their boys can teach them their repertoires of explosive sounds.
Battle Bunny is tailor-made for inspiring kids' own storytelling and writing. Grab a piece of paper and draw your own superhero story -- telling it straight or in comics panels.
- Authors: Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett
- Illustrator: Matthew Myers
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes, Adventures
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: October 22, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 5 - 9
- Number of pages: 32
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
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