Book #185: Battle Bunny

Battle Bunny -- coverWelcome to a new category of picture book! Today marks the first day of a series of books that fall under the category Books My Son Loves That I Hate. Or maybe Books I Hate That My Son Loves.

I had promised myself that I would only write about books that I deemed worthy of endorsing. After all, I’m a writer myself, and I hate reading bad things people say about my work online or anywhere else. But does it really count as a negative review if my kid loved the book?  More than one person has accused me of being a book snob. I agree that on occasion a person should be taken down a peg or two.

Battle Bunny is a book that you’re supposed to read twice.  Or maybe just once with many pauses to include the editorial revisions and scrawly illustrations supposedly added by a fictional child reader (or writer, if you will).  Let’s face it. This book is almost impossible to read aloud.  Here’s an example:

Battle Bunny -- Lincoln

The book is modeled after those soft-edged sweet books about birthdays and bunnies; in fact, if you actually read the entire original (which I did) it’s a saccharine tale about a bunny rabbit who thinks everyone has forgotten his birthday. A second read reveals that it’s a book about an evil bunny seeking to take over the world. I admit I thought it was kind of funny that the word “hopping” (as in, “hopping through the forest”) was changed to”chopping.”  Ha ha. Very clever.

Aside from the fact that this book is impossible to read aloud, I also don’t think either story is particularly interesting, although there is certainly plenty of video game type drama and violent action sequences to appeal to the senses of my six-year-old boy. He was thrilled when he first saw the book.  I tried to feign unadulterated zeal as I was reading it to him, but I’m not a fan of these kinds of cheap thrills, although I get what Scieszca and Barnett were after. Interestingly, Ray didn’t ask for a second read, which he always does if he loves a book. Perhaps he also sensed that neither story was all that interesting.  He loved it at first glance, though.

Mac Barnett wrote Extra Yarn, which both Ray and I truly admire, so this isn’t any kind of invective about the author’s talents or creative output. I think every children’s book author struggles to some degree with the idea of literary integrity vs childlike appeal. When these two ideas merge, picture books can be transcendent, which about sums up what I’m largely trying to do here on the picture book section of this site.

Still, there’s a little transgressive Battle Bunny in all of us. Who hasn’t been tempted to deface a book now and again?  Especially gloppy sentimental ones?  When I complained to a male friend of mine recently (probably the most stereotypically male person I know) that all Ray wants to do is play video games, which I don’t allow, he told me to ease up.

“Everyone hates the passions of the next generation,” he said.  “Even Sophocles was saying, ‘Back in my day, we didn’t write on those wax tablets. We had to memorize our information!  Now you got those fancy wax tablets!'”

Ha ha.  I still have a problem with video game violence, and in many ways Battle Bunny reeks too much of all that nonsense. But I thought the book would bring up some discussion.  So leave a comment and tell me what you think. ABZ

Here’s a link to a review of this book in the New York Times.

Here’s a link to the video trailer for this book.  I welcome your comments.

Battle Bunny -- stump


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  1. I think part of the job of parenting is not always “easing up.” As you know, video game culture contains tremendous, tremendous stupidity, but kids are going to have to navigate it at some point. We fought the long battle of attrition against video games. By the time Porter left home at 15, it was pretty much reduced to holding the line at a household ban on first person shooters and militarized BS. Nico being the second was much more quickly corrupted by Minecraft. I think they’re both turning out just fine – but getting in the way of bad habits and harassing them to be as good as we think we should have been – that’s part of what you do. We’re not doing anyone any favors if we don’t point out that their wax tablets are crap.

Something to say?