If you get the opportunity to meet Mac Barnett, read Battle Bunny first. Take it from me. I blew it. When Barnett visited the Red Balloon bookstore in my neighborhood I hadn’t read it yet. KEM friend, Elise, even pulled the book out of a Barnes and Noble book shelf and told me I’d like it. But I figured I’d look at it later.
Now I’m thinking the only thing I would have liked better is an autographed copy of Battle Bunny and a chance to gush about it. Dang it.
The strange-looking treasure is two books in one.
It began as Birthday Bunny, written by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett in the style of a syrupy, grandma-friendly Golden Book.
Then it was given to protagonist Alex (Scieszka and Barnett’s alter ego) by who else, but his doting Gran Gran. “Alex” transforms it into a disturbingly entertaining, testosterone-ridden, hare-raising tale of doom and destruction. (Alex’s artistic side comes compliments of Matthew Myers).
The raw beauty of this book lurks in the details. For instance, check out Gran Gran’s sentiments.
This note looks so real, I first assumed the library had a used book on their shelves. I can picture Alex gagging, choking, then gritting his teeth in response to his grandma’s saccharine birthday endearments.
I’d type excerpts, but half the brilliance comes from “Alex’s” illustrations.
Our son wrote and drew BATTLE stories in grade school. We know this because of the calls to the principal’s office.
The principal would run his hand over his face and suggest Ritalin. We’d try to look concerned, then save the confiscated manuscripts in scrapbooks.
Luckily, Josh had a revolutionary teacher with revolutionary ideas about letting kids be kids.
THE BEST STORY OF HANSEL AND GRETTEL
Text and spelling copyright 1991, Joshua Honeyman,
T’was a time when sheep smoked cigars and elephants had cars and there lived a gangster group called the devils. In that group was two of the baddest, the leader Hansel and his evil side kick Grettel. Hansel and Grettel went into the woods in their nuclear tank while they redecorated it with spray paint. When they were nearly done they saw a house full of candy. They spray painted it with black, green, and purple paint. Then they knocked it down with a silver battle axe. hen I glanced at brats wrecking her house, I got out my ninja stuff. Sharp like a knife I knocked the axes out of there hands. Suddenly Hansel kicked me into the microwave. I kicked the door down.
“You SKUM!” I yelled “NO ONE MESSES WITH ME!”
“Except us,” chuckled Gretel.
“HI-YA!” I yelled while kicking Gretel to the ground. Hansel took a missile lancher from the tank so I threw a sword it nocked it away from him.
“DIE DANDREFF DOG!” I yelled kicking them both to the TV set. I chained them to the couch and switched the channel to PBS.
“NO!” yelled Hansel and Gretel. Mr. Rogers was on. “AAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!”
(Incidentally, this valiant superhero is now an Army Captain.)
While reading Battle Bunny to children, one must read it first as originally written, then reread it Alex’s way. Our grandkids’ faces light up as they notice each detail and witness the unleashing of an imagination (Technically, three imaginations: Scieszka, Barnett, and Myer’s).
During a recent overnight stay, our youngest granddaughter forced me (Okay, she said, “Please.”) to read Battle Bunny to her twice–which, technically, means four times. The next morning she asked if she could play with the bath toys. I thought her request was unusual, because A.) she wasn’t taking a bath, and B.) we have way cooler toys than bath toys. Later, as I cooked breakfast, I overheard her, deeply immersed in her play world. “Take that! Evil Battle Bunny! You’re no match for my Superhero Duckies!”
When I looked under the coffee table, her request made perfect sense. A rebel squeeze toy rabbit peered through his transparent plastic cup prison at an intimidating fleet of rubber ducky wardens.
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m so proud of my bunny-trapping granddaughter. (Sheer genius, like her Gretel-kicking uncle.)
Gran Grans, Nanas, Grandmas–whatever you call yourself–UNITE! We owe it to our grandkids to supply each one of them with a copy of Battle Bunny (for inspiration), a box of markers, and a mushy Golden Book with a title page note from us urging them to go wild and re-create.
I do hope their parents (and their school principals) will forgive us.