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Bunnicula: Bk. 1 (Handi-read) Hardcover – Large Print, November, 1989
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|Hardcover, Large Print, November, 1989||
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This immensely popular children's story is told from the point of view of a dog named Harold. It all starts when Harold's human family, the Monroes, goes to see the movie Dracula, and young Toby accidentally sits on a baby rabbit wrapped in a bundle on his seat. How could the family help but take the rabbit home and name it Bunnicula? Chester, the literate, sensitive, and keenly observant family cat, soon decides there is something weird about this rabbit. Pointy fangs, the appearance of a cape, black-and-white coloring, nocturnal habits it sure seemed like he was a vampire bunny. When the family finds a white tomato in the kitchen, sucked dry and colorless, well Chester becomes distraught and fears for the safety of the family. "Today, vegetables. Tomorrow the world!" he warns Harold. But when Chester tries to make his fears known to the Monroes, he is completely misunderstood, and the results are truly hilarious. Is Bunnicula really a vampire bunny? We can't say. But any child who has ever let his or her imagination run a little wild will love Deborah and James Howe's funny, fast-paced "rabbit-tale of mystery." (Ages 9 to 12) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Move over, Dracula! This mystery-comedy is sure to delight."
-- "New York Times"
"The most lovable vampire of all time."
-- J. Gordon Melton, author of "The Vampire Book"
"Bunnicula is the kind of story that does not age, and in all probability, will never die. Or stay dead, anyway..."
-- Neil Gaiman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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1. A dog couldn't write a book, so the narrator is not to be trusted.
2. A rabbit could never be a vampire, for many reasons, but primarily that they don't have souls.
Skip this book and read a real vampire book, like How To Cook A Vampire.
Bunnicula was written before I was born, but I remember reading it and two of its sequels, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and Howliday Inn, all in one fevered Halloween weekend. Lo and behold, when I went to the bookstore for my weekly browsing session, I saw they had plenty of copies of Bunnicula for today's readers = classic.
Truth be told, Bunnicula isn't even that good of a book. I know that statement flies in the face of my review policy and my usual manner of only discussing positive aspects of books here, but I'm feeling feisty and it's true. When I read Bunnicula as a kid, I didn't think it was that good and my opinion hasn't changed much. The writing is so so in places, the characters are uneven, and I would never place Bunnicula on the same shelf as The Witches, a truly classic Halloween read. But I've already told you as a child I read the sequels immediately after reading the first book and if I had those sequels here now, I'd probably give them a look.
Why? Because what Bunnicula does well, it does better than anyone. It's fun, it's funny, and it's got a concept so clever the thought of it brings a smile to the face of readers everywhere. Actually, the fact that the writing in Bunnicula is so poor in places and yet the book still went on to become a classic warms the hearts of hopeful substandard writers like myself.
So what's Bunnicula all about? A vampire Bunny! Or is he? He is. But maybe not!
Before it's too late, Harold the dog and Chester the cat must find out the truth about the newest pet in the Monroe household--a suspicious-looking bunny with unusual habits... and fangs! I totally stole that summary from the back cover, but why reinvent the wheel. Here is the evidence as well as our first examples of uneven characters acting randomly over the top:
"Now tell me, Harold, have you notcided anything funny about that rabbit?"
"No," I said, "but I've certainly noticed a lot of funny things about you recently."
"Think about it. That rabbit sleeps all day."
"So do I. So do you."
"Furthermore, he's got funny little sharp teeth."
"So do I. So do you."
"Furthermore, he gets in and out of his cage by himself. What kind of rabbit can do that?"
"A smart one," I said. "I could do it."
"We're not talking about you, Harold. We're talking about the rabbit. Now, where did they find him?"
"At the movies."
"Yes, but what movie?"
"Dracula," I said, "so?"
"So," he said quickly, "remember the note around his neck? What language was it in?" (how does one say "so" slowly --MGN)
"An obscure dialect of the Carpathian mountain region," I answered smugly. He didn't know everything.
"Ah ha!" Chester said, "but what area of the Caparthian mountain region?"
Area? What's an area? I looked at him blankly. (sort of an obvious concept for a dog familiar with the Caparthian mountain region -MGN)
"Transylvania!" he cried triumphantly. "And that proves my point."
"What point? What are we talking about?"
"And don't forget the white tomato! That's most important of all!"
"But , what..."
"This book," said Chester, disregarding me, "tells us just what we need to know."
"What?" I practically screamed. "What does it tell us? What does this book have to do with Bunnicula? What are you talking about? What's going on here? I can't stand it anymore!" (***SMACK*** Get hold of yourself, Harold! -MGN)
Chester regarded me coolly. "You're really very excitable, Harold. That's not good for your blood pressure."
I put my paws around his throat. "Tell me," I said in a low, threatening voice, "or I'll squeeze you till you pop."
Whoa. What the heck happened to Harold there? Up until this moment, Harold has been a reasonable dog of fairly considerable intelligence. This is the only moment in the book when he nearly snaps. Otherwise, he and Chester appear to be friends. Why is he so erratic and unpredictable? Not to worry, Esteemed Reader, I have concocted for myself an explanation. Harold is a junkie for chocolate cake and cupcakes, which are discussed throughout the novel, and the use of the word "stash" as well as the nature of Harold's relationship with his owner tipped me off early:
Toby's a nice kid, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't hurt that he shares his stash with me. It was, after all, at one of those late night parties in Toby's room that I first developed my taste for chocolate cake. And Toby, noting my preference, has kept me in chocolate cake ever since.
Beneath the surface story of a vampire Bunny is the story of a dog suffering a crippling addiction that allows him to write a novel, but not to understand the meaning of complex concepts such as "area." And Chester the cat doesn't fair much better. Toward the end of the novel, during his crazed attempts to destroy the vampire bunny whose penchant for sucking the juice from veggies isn't hurting anyone, Chester reminded me of the extreme members of the conservative right and I sort of wished someone would drive a stake through his heart.
I'll stop being a jerk now. Truly, Esteemed Reader, I don't know what's come over me. This may be the snarkiest review I've ever written. I like Bunnicula, I do. Mrs. Ninja's face lit up when she saw I was reading it and I know many readers have very fond memories of the vampire bunny. It's a good book, it is. It's just that as a child I always felt patronized by adults who recommended it to me as a scary book. The Witches is a scary book. Bunnicula is a fun book and very good book, but it isn't scarry. However, as I'm adult now and allowed to read The Walking Dead, I'll give up this old grudge and embrace Bunnicula for what it is: a good time.
It really is a killer concept perfect for the middle grade reader: a vampire bunny that sucks vegetables until they're white. What child wouldn't want to read a book about that? What child wouldn't love to own such a bunny? The problem is how does a writer create a compelling story around a vampire bunny if the bunny isn't a threat to anyone. A writer could personify the vegetables, which could have made for a much darker, but perhaps also fun story. The Howes have crafted a mystery featuring two non-bunny, non-vampire characters around their vampire bunny. It's a smart move.
And the book is funny. It's hit and miss in places. As I've mentioned, the characters often act in ways only to serve the joke rather than how they might actually act, but the book is very short and the tone allows for these inconsistencies. And Chester the cat trying to pound a "steak" through Bunnicula's heart will always be hilarious. In fact, near the end of the book, this passage made me laugh so hard I nearly cried. After reading Finding Yourself by Screaming a Lot, Chester has these words of wisdom:
"And in order to communicate, Harold, you haveto really be in touch with yourself. Are you in touch with yourself, Harold? Can you look yourself in the mirror and say, 'I know who I am. I am in touch with the me-ness that is me, and I can reach out to the you-ness that is you?"
That's going to do it, Esteemed Reader. To make up for what a jerk I've been this review, I will leave you with some of my favorite passages from Bunnicula:
Now, most people might call me a mongrel, but I have some pretty fancy bloodlines running through these veins and Russian wolfhound happens to be one of them. Because my family got around a lot, I was able to recognize the language as an obscure dialect of the Carpathian Mountain region.
"You can keep smelly ol' Harold in your room, and Chester too, if you want to, but I'm going to keep the rabbit in mine."
Smelly ol' Harold! I would have bitten his ankle, but I knew he hadn't changed his socks for a week. Smelly, indeed!
I feel at this time there are a few things you should know about Chester. He is not your ordinary cat. (But then, I'm not your ordinary dog, since an ordinary dog wouldn't be writing this book, would he?)
At first, I thought I could strike up a friendship with Bunnicula and maybe teach him a few tricks. But I could never wake him up. He was always waking up just about sunset, when I wanted to take a snooze. A rabbit, I concluded, is cute to look at, but is generally useless, especially as a companion to dogs.
One day, a family (called the Monroes to "protect their privacy") come home to their dog Harold and cat Chester with a curious bundle. This turns out to be a rabbit, a strange one at that. Chester discovers from observation of the bunny's habits and careful research (he's a voracious reader, you know) that this rabbit is, in fact, a vampire rabbit. He is lead to this conclusion by the discovery of dried out, white pieces of vegetables strewn in the house. Even though it appears the bunny, named "Bunnicula" by the family (in no relation to his vampiric nature, as they think he's an ordinary rabbit) as they found him at a Dracula film, only "drains" veggies, Chester is afraid this is only the beginning of a plot to kill the family. He simply must stop this burgeoning evil. Obviously, Chester is wrong, but his misguided attempts to save the family are hilarious, and so the fun begins.
This was a nice, brief read. What really impressed me was that the authors did not hesitate to use ordinary words. They didn't change the vocabulary they used to cater to younger readers, but used normal words. This is undeniably a book for younger readers, but it is also a book that can easily be enjoyed by readers of any age.
A great read for younger readers, and a fun quick read for older readers in between deeper tomes.